FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM APRIL 22, 2022 • THE QUEENS COURIER 8
Queens College unveils Yellow Heart Memorial
honoring community members lost to COVID-19
BY CARLOTTA MOHAMED
More than 120 yellow paper hearts bearing
the names of loved ones lost to COVID-19 were
displayed on the windows surrounding the entrance
to the Queens College Benjamin Rosenthal
Library in Flushing on Wednesday, April 13.
Th ose who were honored during the ceremony
ranged from family and friends of college community
members to faculty, staff and alumni at
Queens College’s Yellow Heart Memorial event
held outside at Cooperman Plaza in front of the
library. Names of the deceased were read aloud
aft er the college’s jazz ensemble performed a
“Th ere may be no place on the face of the
globe that has been more aff ected by COVID
than Queens,” said Queens College President
Frank Wu. “Almost everyone associated with
Queens College, everyone in this borough of
ours, in this community, has lost someone special
in their lives or they know someone who has
suff ered such a loss because of this pandemic.”
Th e Yellow Heart Memorial is an initiative
sponsored by the eponymous nonprofi t organization
that aims to acknowledge those who died
from COVID not as statistics, but as beloved
family members, friends and colleagues; their
names or pictures are placed on individual yellow
paper hearts and displayed in a common area.
Queens College is the fi rst college in New
York state and the second in the nation to hold
such a memorial.
Th e event was spearheaded by two students
— sisters Jessica and Danielle Alejandro — in
memory of their grandfather Joseph Anthony
Szalkiewicz, who died from complications of
COVID-19 in March of 2021.
Like so many who were separated from their
loved ones during the pandemic, the Alejandros
bid goodbye to “the heart of their family” over
FaceTime shortly before his death. Both sisters
are pursuing education degrees.
“We are here today to never allow our loved
ones to become just a number in this COVID-19
pandemic,” Jessica said. “Th ey fought tough
battles alone in those hospitals and we will
never allow anyone to forget their names, their
battles and anything they have experienced. We
will make this our mission to not only keep our
Gerry Brostek told a story of losing his father
Joseph Brostek to COVID-19.
“Aft er Dad died, we received messages of
condolence from so many Queens
College people, some who we knew
and others we had no idea who
they were, but they felt that they
wanted to express their condolence
and love for our dad,”
Rosie Davis, who
lost her mother to
COVID at the start
of the pandemic,
shared how it
motivated her to start the Yellow Heart Memorial.
Th e memorial currently has 12 national
chapters and one international chapter.
“My family, like so many others, couldn’t
have the celebration of life that we deserved,
so I turned my grief into action and I
thought, ‘How am I going to let the
world know what a wonderful person
my mom is?’” Davis said. “Th at’s
how the Yellow Heart Memorial was created
— out of grief, out of heartbreak. I never realized
that there were thousands of people who
needed what I needed.”
During the ceremony, Davis presented
the Alejandro sisters with the Yellow Heart
Memorial “Golden Heart Award.”
As the New York City team leads for Yellow
Heart Memorial, the sisters will help
host the second annual COVID March to
Remember — a walk across the Brooklyn
Bridge — on Saturday, Aug. 6. They are also
working with Senator Joseph Addabbo to
create a permanent Yellow Heart Memorial
to honor New York City residents lost to
Queens Borough President Donovan
Richards said the 10,106 Queens residents
lost to COVID-19 are more than a statistic.
“They are our parents, our spouses,
friends and neighbors.
We must continue
to be vigilant and inspire those around us
while continuing to cherish and hold the
memories of our loved ones close and at the
forefront of the work we do,” Richards said.
“Th eir memories are not lost in vain as we
emerge out of this pandemic with the goal
of continuing to keep those close to us safe.”
Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.
Photos by Paul Frangipane
Student Elizabeth Durand speaks at the Yellow Heart Memorial at Queens College on Wednesday, April 13.
President Frank Wu
speaks at the Yellow
Heart Memorial for
COVID victims at Queens
Jessica and Danielle
the event after
died from COVID.
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papa’s memory alive, but all of your loved ones’
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