From St. Louis Post Dispatch’s “Meet the St. Louis Woman on a Mission to Memorialize the Lives Lost to COVID-19”
Murray launched a website, stlouiscovidmemorial.com, in June and has since provided accounts of more than  people who have died locally in the pandemic. She gets submissions from families but also combs through news stories and obituaries to collect the names, pictures and stories of the people lost.
Murray works on the project for free with the goal of putting a human face to the case counts and death toll.
“People don’t want their loved ones to be forgotten," she said this week. "You know, it's not just the people that make the news that are worth stopping and honoring, it’s the people who have Alzheimer's disease that die alone in a nursing home. It’s the husband who is forced to die without his wife by his side. They all had people who loved them . . . Some of them really stick with me,"
She came to her unlikely role memorializing the dead by chance. She was out for a socially distanced dinner and scrolled through her phone waiting for her food when she saw a project online tracking lives lost in New York City. She couldn't find anything similar online for St. Louis and got inspired.
"I thought, 'Well, I could do that,' and I bought the domain name before the food even came.”
Murray spends one to two hours a night maintaining and adding to the St. Louis COVID Memorial while one of her three pet cockatoos, named Boo, Arthur and Misha, sits on her lap. The birds can tell when the stories she writes begin to upset her, Murray said.
"The stories do make me sad sometimes, but it's funny because the cockatoos can sense it and try to cheer you up,"
Murray said, adding that she doesn't mind spending so much time focused on loss these days.
”Sometimes you have to sit with that sadness and let it wash over you. That's facing the pandemic and realizing that what other people are going through that have lost someone close to them is so much worse. So if this site might help any of those families at all, it's worth it."
Murray said she fears that before the pandemic is over she may have to add a name of someone she knows personally. She hopes to expand the site to include a more demographically diverse collection of people and plans to one day share her work with a researcher or nonprofit that might benefit from the time she spends compiling the stories.
”This is something that just needs to be documented. These all are people who are loved by someone."
From all of us at RE Source, thank you, Jessica, for your important contribution to our community, the historical record, and most importantly, to those grieving the loss of a loved one in this unprecedented time.
We also extend our gratitude to Erin Heffernan of The St. Louis Post Dispatch for her touching story, as well as Colter Peterson for the portrait of Jessica with one of her beloved cockatoos. You can view the story in its entirety, and more portraits of Jessica with her birds here.
If you have lost a loved one to the COVID-19 pandemic, you are invited to submit your entry to the St. Louis COVID Memorial here.