Editor’s Note: It’s been six months since Dez-Ann Romain, a New York City principal, died of COVID-19, the first known K-12 educator to succumb to the virus that’s now killed more than 200,000 Americans. This poem, by senior contributing writer Catherine Gewertz, pays tribute to the more than 400 teachers, principals, bus drivers, custodians, paraprofessionals, coaches, superintendents, and other staff members we have lost to the pandemic so far.
Six months, and hundreds gone.
The column of numbers can be counted
But not totaled.
When each number was a face that welcomed a child —
whether polishing a floor, explaining division, or closing the school bus door —
there can be no sum. Because each lost part
is too vast, too deep, to quantify.
To the list, one said: “Grief like this is just too much and overwhelming.”
Dez-Ann Romain, the first to fall. She led the ones
trying to find their way back.
Marie Pino, whose teaching connected generations.
Pedro Garcia III, whose gentle hands helped children
wrestle down a new language.
In New York, New Mexico, Nebraska, and everywhere in between,
They could not stop for death.
They had lessons to plan, children to greet.
But he stopped for them, and not kindly.
Let us remember
The sound of the schoolhouse bells
When these souls rang them.
And let their dirge not yearn for music;
Let us play their remembrance.
A version of this article appeared in the September 30, 2020 edition of Education Week as Elegy for the Educators