NORFOLK, Va. - Under the heat of the July sun, a small group gathered on the lawn in front of Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.
"We have not had the opportunity to properly grieve or mourn our patients," said Dr. Francis Counselman, chairman of Emergency Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School.
About three dozen healthcare workers - men and women on the front lines who answered the call of duty - gathered Thursday afternoon.
"You came to work each day, gave 100% of your effort," said Counselman.
Over the past 16 months, these healthcare workers from EVMS, SNGH and the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters have not paused.
"Patients and providers are used to losing patients, but in the numbers we were seeing during COVID... they have not had a chance to process this - to really grieve, to mourn," said Linda Archer with Graduate Medical Education at EVMS.
Thursday, EVMS hosted the ceremony to give the workers a chance to reflect.
"I never had the chance to properly mourn him," said LPN Jennifer Firth with CHKD.
Firth lost a close family friend during the height of the pandemic while still treating COVID-19 patients and keeping outpatient clinics afloat.
"We didn't get a whole lot of time to stop and reflect, and now we can do that and persevere," said Firth.
The remembrance ceremony comes at a time when COVID-19 numbers are surging across the U.S and right here in Virginia.
"We are gearing up for another wave of COVID, and it's all the unvaccinated," said Counselman.
Counselman says those coming into the emergency room with COVID-19 symptoms is spiking.
"Please get vaccinated for your friends, your neighbors and your nation," he said.
Those who attended the ceremony placed pinwheels on the lawn, representing the lives of more than 11,000 Virginians lost to the illness.