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Lanett Christmas tree honors locals who died from COVID-19

LANETT — The 25-foot-tall Christmas tree in Lanett’s Veterans Park has a dual purpose this year. As always, it celebrates the joy of the Christmas season. What’s different this year is that it’s also honoring the memory of local people who have died of COVID-19. Families who have lost loved ones are being asked to place photos of their loved one, cards of remembrance or an ornament with their name on it on this year’s tree.

“2020 started off with the hope of being the year of perfect vision,” Mayor Kyle McCoy said in opening the annual tree lighting program Monday evening. “It can still be that way if we have perfect vision of the ones we have lost. Almost everyone in our area has been touched in some way by COVID-19. All of us know someone who has died because of it or has had COVID-19 and survived. Things are so different now from the way they were last Christmas. We had a huge crowd with us last year. There were lots of children on the playground, vendors and people singing on a stage. There was a time this past spring when we didn’t know what was happening.”

McCoy said that 2020 will go down as a year no one will ever forget. Right now, it’s the equivalent to having a Pearl Harbor every day with more than 2,000 Americans dying.

“We can remember those in our local area by placing memorials on this tree,” McCoy said. “Every time someone drives past it they will see our tree of remembrance and remember those special people who died this year. We can remember the ones we lost with perfect vision of them. Let’s keep bringing memorials to them to place on the tree. We can do it through Christmas.”

McCoy said that COVID-19 isn’t the only thing people have struggled with this year. Families have also struggled with the public perception of having had it.

“This is something no one should be ashamed of,” McCoy said. “If you lost someone or had someone who really got sick from it, deal with it in an honest way. It wasn’t their fault. They didn’t do anything wrong. Don’t be reluctant to talk to others about it. It has happened to a lot of people, and your family isn’t diminished if it happened to you.”

McCoy said there’s the hope of a vaccine in 2021 but for now people have to stay safe.

“We have to protect ourselves and be smart,” he said. “Always wear a mask when you are away from home, avoid large gatherings and practice social distancing.”

The mayor thanked members of the council for being present. They included Tony Malone of District One, Jamie Heard in District Two, Charles Looser for District Three, Angelia Thomas in District Four and Tifton Dobbs in District Five.

“As it has often been said in the Methodist church, the presence of the Lord has been with us tonight,” McCoy said.