LANCASTER, Pa. — On April 1, 2020, 74-year-old Harry “Nick” Bitzer mentioned he was short of breath.
Betty Lou Bitzer, his wife of 41 years, called an ambulance.
“That would have been the last time I saw him,” Betty Lou Bitzer said. “I never saw him after he passed.”
Bitzer’s husband was among the first in Lancaster County to die from COVID-19 on April 30, 2020.
But he would not be the last; the virus has so far claimed the lives of more than 1,100 people in Lancaster County, according to Department of Health data.
"Of course I could not go in and see him, I could not be with him. I could not support him, hold his hand,” Bitzer said. “It's pretty bad when you have to have a nurse call you and tell you about the last five minutes of your husband's life.”
An event Thursday sought to remember and honor both lost ones and the healthcare workers who tried to save them. “A Day of Healing," held in Long's Park, included music and speakers such as Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace.
“Every life lost matters... It matters that we remember,” Mayor Sorace told the audience.
The event ended with a candle lighting ceremony and slideshow of the names of those who died.
“There's nothing wrong with a day of healing,” said Strasburg resident Xavier Allen, who came with his family. “We need more than one day, to be honest with you.”
Bitzer said she appreciated all the support for family members left behind, like herself. She also asked others to protect themselves.
“My husband had no choice. People nowadays have a choice to get the vaccine,” she said.
The event was organized by Union Community Care, which also provided a vaccine clinic.