The gesture was simple enough.
A few dozen paper bags, small battery-powered candles to illuminate each bag from the inside, a small stone to weigh them to the concrete, and an idea.
After he saw photos of the Jan. 19 memorial at Washington’s Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool — at which 400 lights were lined up along the banks to represent the 400,000 Americans killed by COVID-19 at that point — local man Rob Schaumann said he was inspired.
Having lived on Mission Street in South Pasadena since the mid-1990s, Schaumann said he immediately considered the bridge just outside that connects his city with San Marino.
“I go out to the bridge all the time at night and just look at the moon,” Schaumann explained. “It just reminded me of the reflecting pool in Washington, where they have the images set up. I just thought, ah, maybe I could do that, something simple. It’s just a way to remember all the people who have been taken because of this. And maybe remind people to wear a mask.”
So he went to pick up supplies — “I got it all from the Dollar Tree,” he said — and on Friday last week lined the sidewalk of the bridge with the lighted-up bags. He considered leaving them there through the weekend, but rain brought him back outside to collect the bags.
“People seemed to like it. I’ve gotten some nice response to it,” Schaumann said. “At nighttime, there’s hardly a car parked there. I was maybe thinking one, two nights, something like that, maybe through the weekend. Some people stop and walk around, and that’s really the best way to look at them.”
Schaumann, a Realtor, said that not only did people stop to appreciate the tribute, but his social media photos of it have been widely shared as well. While he was setting it up, he said, a San Marino police officer stopped by; after determining they weren’t real candles, the officer said it was a nice gesture, Schaumann said.
One friend asked if he might add some flowers to the site, in tribute to a family member who died from the coronavirus. Although the thought has crossed his mind to think of a more regular tribute, Schaumann said he’s not sure whether this one needs to go up every week, or weekend, or whatever period.
“What I thought was, I’ll put them out until the batteries run out,” he said.
At the very least, Schaumann said he’d put them back out on Monday this week, weather permitting. Anticipating this article, he said he may bring the lights back out this weekend as well.
“It’s not spectacular,” he said. “It’s not like fireworks or anything like that. It’s just something I could do. In this pandemic, we’ve all lost something — a family member, a friend, a job, certainly a way of life. We just sort of have to be in the moment and say, ‘Yes, this is going on,’ and hopefully come to the conclusion of ‘what could I do to help?’”