By: Erika Stanish/KDKA-TV
GREENSBURG, Pa. (KDKA) -- Around two dozen Westmoreland County residents gathered Friday night in frigid cold temperatures to remember those who lost their lives to COVID-19.
The coronavirus has taken 39,362 lives in Pennsylvania, according to the state Department of Health, and 1,172 of those were Westmoreland County residents.
"Westmoreland County, like so many communities, has really been hit hard by the pandemic," said Michael Pardus, founding member of Voice of Westmoreland.
Voice of Westmoreland organized the prayer vigil outside of the Westmoreland County Courthouse to remember those impacted by COVID and to bring residents together.
"In the frigid days of winter and moments we breathe the cold air, we remember them," a resident reading a poem said.
"I've been grieving the loss of my mother on Nov. 4, the loss of my brother-in-law on Jan. 13, and the loss of my sister on Jan. 18. We bury her Tuesday," another resident said.
Those in attendance held a moment of silence before ringing a bell to honor those who have not survived and celebrate frontline workers.
"We wanted people to view this and take this as a very somber occasion, as well as the celebration of those who've done so much," Pardus said.
Candles were also lit in remembrance of those who have died of COVID-19.
"Not only does it represent who we lost in Westmoreland County but who we lost in the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania," a resident said.
"I'm hopeful there will be better days ahead. I know we can get there," another resident said.
Organizers said moving forward, residents must come together to lift communities that have been most impacted by COVID-19 and find ways for relief and recovery.
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