'We're not strangers'

F.S. resident's 'candles in the window' initiative aims to remember pandemic victims during holidays

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When Deborah Salant learned that, during the height of the pandemic in early 2020, that the bodies of Covid-19 victims whose families could not afford to bury them were being kept in freezer trucks, she was deeply moved.

“She was outraged by this story and decided to do something about it,” said her husband, Robert Salant, in an email.

Salant tried to offer four burial sites at Greenfield Cemetery in Hempstead that belonged to her great-grandfather to families who could not afford burial plots. The cemetery manager denied Salant’s request, claiming that the sites could only be donated to members of her great- grandfather’s family (of which Salant is the only surviving member).

After Salant testified at a Hempstead Town Board meeting, Supervisor Donald Clavin announced, on Dec. 10, 2020, that the town board unanimously approved a resolution granting Greenfield Cemetery family plot owners the right to donate any unused, available gravesites to the families of Covid-19 victims.

During the spring of 2020, as the pandemic grew more deadly, Salant started a community initiative known as “Candles in the Window,” calling on local residents to place electric candles in their windows from April 2020 until the close of the pandemic to honor those who have died from Covid-19.

Through this action, “the community could show compassion and solidarity for our neighbors who suffered losses of loved ones due to Covid-19,” her husband said in the email.

Community groups such as the Franklin Square Civic Organizations joined the effort as well as the Town of Hempstead and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who shared messages on social media urging Nassau County residents to participate in the initiative.

Now, nearly two years after the beginning of the pandemic, Salant is revamping her effort this fall.
“As we approach the coming 2021 holiday season, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah, we find our country and the world is still confronted with the terrible, never-ending scourge of Coronavirus,” Salant said in a statement. “I hope during the holiday time we think about bringing compassion, understanding and love to a fellow neighbor,” she added.

Salant is urging all Long Islanders to continue to display electric candles in the windows of their home from until the day the pandemic ends.

“Everyone we come into contact with, if we sit and talk… we share this,” Salant said of the widespread impact of the pandemic.

By placing a candle in the window, Salant said Long Islanders honor the memories of the 733,000 people who have died from Covid-19 in the U.S.

“A candle brings warmth, a candle brings, comfort,” Salant said. “It’s like a hug to a stranger.”

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