At 6 p.m., residents and businesses across the city were asked to turn off their lights and electronics, step outside their home or workplace, and light a candle in a moment of silence for those who have lost their lives to the virus.
As they did, the city came to a darkened standstill for 10 minutes. Illuminated theaters long left empty by the pandemic dimmed their marquees, the bells of city churches tolled, and the typically-festive Centennial Wheel at a shuttered Navy Pier went dark over Lake Michigan.
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"It's really very, very powerful. Just to be still for a moment and think about the power of what we can accomplish when we come together," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
Landmarks were darkened or repurposed as candles, like the colonnades of Soldier Field, as a nod to the 400,000 Americans who fought and lost to COVID-19.
Local buildings and institutions that participated included:
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"Four hundred thousand people that had a lot of different plans for last year and this year, for their future, with their friends and families and loved ones. Four hundred thousand people that are not here anymore," said Ricardo Lopez, who lost both parents to COVID-19.
Lopez buried his father, one of the city's longtime emergency dispatchers, Lupe Lopez, on a Monday. His mother died by weeks' end.
"It still hurts every single day, but your loved ones would want you to continue on. Your loved ones would want you to do everything you did before they passed away to the best of your ability to honor them in every way possible," Lopez said.
The marquee at his mom's beloved Wrigley Field read "Brighter Together" Tuesday night. Lopez said he believes it.
"It brings me a little hope that with this type of recognition, more people will be vaccinated, more people will think about some of the actions they do on a daily basis," Lopez said.
Another local family is still struggling with their loss due to the pandemic.
"We had no wealth in the traditional sense, but we had an overwhelming amount of love and closeness," Joe Bruno said.
Bruno lost his parents within 11 days of each other last month. Mike and Carol Bruno, ages 80 and 79, were the font of a sprawling Italian family with Chicago roots generations long.
"My mom and dad went so quickly," Bruno said. "It attacked their bodies in such vicious ways and before we knew it, they were both gone."
Like so many with elderly parents, Joe and his siblings had been careful through 2020 to protect Mike and Carol. Few visits, no hugs - even foregoing Mike's 80th birthday celebrations in October. But eventually they gathered, socially distant, masked up, just for a while and just before Thanksgiving.
Within a week both parents were hospitalized, soon to be on ventilators - and never to recover.
"When your family members are in the hospital, you cannot be with them," Bruno said. "You can't visit them. You don't get to hold her hand. You don't get to say goodbye."
Carol succumbed to COVID-19 December 13. Mike held on until the 24th.
"My father never knew that my mom passed away and that really is the only level of comfort that we have as a family," Bruno said.
Bruno said he is "livid" at what he called failures of leadership.
"So angry that this was not handled properly from the beginning," Bruno said.