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Church's Solemn Tribute To COVID-19 Dead Sparks Ire Online

PATCHOGUE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- It's a solemn tribute to the nation's coronavirus dead in a Long Island village.

Church bells are ringing more than 200,000 over the next two weeks.

But not everyone is welcoming this method of remembrance.

As a somber reminder of human loss, the bell atop the Congregational Church of Patchogue is ringing nonstop, every six seconds, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for two weeks: 218,000 times to represent every American lost to COVID-19.

"We don't want it blaring it in your ear. We want it to say bong, oh that's a human beingm that's an American, that died. Bong, that's another one," said Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter.

His idea was to stir mindfulness of the enormous toll.

"It's actually a very nice tribute to the people who, unfortunately, have passed," one person said.


"I didn't notice it 'til you mentioned, now I hear it," said another.

The volume is digitally controlled, engineered not to disrupt anyone. It's barely audible on Main Street, where the historic church stands and few people live, reported CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff.

The pastor did not expect what he calls the volume of abusive comments not from neighbors, but on social media.

"That volume is very, very high. The volume of the bells was never intended to be, so mothers of infants can't get their kids to bed," he said.

Among the comments on social media: "It's very inconsiderate," "ridiculous and rude," "don't need a reminder of this pandemic -- we live it every day!"

Rev. Wolter says the bells call us to unity.

"Ringing the bell 218,000 times nonstop, like, excuse me. Of course it's going to bring people ... That's what I wanted. Yoo-hoo, wake up, this is really going on," he said.

And to remember, next time it could be tolling for you.

The final bell will toll Nov. 1, as the death toll continues to rise. That Sunday is All Saints Day, a Christian day of remembering the dead.


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