Church bells rang out across the United States today, including here in eastern Idaho. The First Presbyterian Church joined in the nationwide effort to remember the 400,000 Americans who've died as a result the pandemic.

Tuesday afternoon, Betsy Loxterman and Melissa Norton began ringing the bell at First Presbyterian Church in Pocatello. This was part of the national COVID-19 Memorial which aimed to "shine a light on those we've lost."

"Even those of us who have not lost friends and loved ones, we've all been affected by the pandemic," says Norton. Both she and Loxterman are members on session at the church which is the organization's governing body. She continues, "People have lost jobs. People are not able to be as close contact as they wish with friends and family members."

The two women climbed the stairs to the top story of the building where a long bell rope hung from the ceiling. The tolling of the bells represents the death toll caused by the virus. "It's a show of unity across the country that people are concerned about the number of lives lost to this pandemic and that we feel for all the people who've lost friends and loved ones," adds Norton.

All participating churches began ringing their bells at the exact same time which started at 3:30 p.m. Mountain Standard Time.

Like many churches across the nation, the goal was to ring the bell 400 times, or once for every 1,000 deaths in the United States. "Unfortunately, it's (the bell) about as old as the church building (which was erected in 1927) and it stopped ringing after -- I think -- 59 rings," explains Norton. "We're sorry not to have gotten to the 400, but we're glad that we did what we could."

While the pandemic has undoubtedly caused a lot of devastation, Loxterman and Norton are focusing on the silver lining. "We can all look forward with hope," Loxterman says. "And I think it's brought some people together, caring for one another, and calling to check on people; things like that."

Both Loxterman and Norton remind us that as we continue to make our way through the pandemic to look out for one another through simple measures like wearing a mask and social distancing.


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