The light that memorializes a nation’s terrible loss

Somehow, this just seems like an appropriate gesture to recognize today. The United States has paused through several venues leading up to today to remember those who have been claimed by the global coronavirus pandemic, an American toll of sorrow that passed 400,000 lives this week. Different entities have marked that grim benchmark in different ways. The Ford Motor Company chose a historic initiative as its canvas for creating a memorial to those lost to COVID-19. Ford presented its tribute overnight yesterday.

Ford chose to light up not only its world headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, last night, but also lit up the historic Michigan Central passenger rail station in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit that the auto giant is restoring as part of a major investment in renewing the city. The Michigan Central memorial was planned by the 2021 Presidential Inauguration Committee, which also created the sea of flags, representing the pandemic’s fallen, around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington that was so prominently displayed this week. Mostly during my time with Hemmings Motor News, I had the chance to explore this spectacular, and spectacularly neglected, structure from just outside its gates. Opened in 1914, the Beaux Arts station structure was abandoned and vandalized for years, and seemed like a sure candidate for the wrecking ball until Ford stepped it. Ford bought the station, and the adjoining Roosevelt Warehouse, in 2018 and is redeveloping the site as its Corktown campus, a $1 billion project that will repurpose it as Ford’s research center on autonomous-vehicle development.

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