A special monument and plaque dedicated to the efforts of frontline and health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to the memory of those lost to the virus, will soon be erected by Hernando County.
Well, perhaps a better way of putting it is a monument will be submerged soon — not within the county, but a few miles offshore at the Bendickson artificial reef site.
The monument is a project of the Hernando County Port Authority’s Waterways and Aquatic Services division. The idea was spawned in April to commemorate the sacrifices of those in the health industry risking their own health to help those afflicted with the potentially deadly virus, said Keith Kolasa, Aquatic Services manager. It also will honor the memory of those who died. The concrete base of the memorial is built and awaiting a metal plaque in the works.
Kolasa said it was hoped the plaque would have been ready sooner, but like many businesses the company making it has experienced backlogs related to the pandemic.
“Everybody is backed up,” said Kolasa. “It’s amazing how many things are hard to get now and how long it is taking.”
Kolasa said his fellow county employees have a personal connection to the project, as many have friends and family in the health care field working to care for the infected. Data as of this week showed Hernando County has seen 2,876 cases of the virus, with 380 people hospitalized since data collection began in March. Of those infected, 105 have died.
“Thankfully we’re seeing cases (of COVID-19 infection) going down,” said Kolasa. “But we’ve had a lot of people die from it.”
He added that while most will never see the underwater monument, it will stand for generations as solemn reminder for those diving the reef.
“We had the idea to basically do something nice to recognize those in the medical field and also the victims,” said Kolasa. “We have people who have a lot of family in the medical field.”
The Bendickson Reef is about 20 miles off Hernando’s coast and is the site of concrete rubble, decommissioned U.S. Army tanks, and cast concrete reef balls specially designed to support marine life. The reef also is the final resting place of the infamous “Ghost Ship,” a 46-foot sailboat scuttled to become part of the reef last year.
The wording of the plaque will read: “This monument is placed to honor the victims of COVID-19 and pay tribute to the heroic actions of health care providers and frontline workers.”
It’s perhaps fitting that a habitat designed to foster and sustain life will be the site of a memorial honoring those whose careers are dedicated to the same goal.