Wall, NJ welcomes Belmar beach COVID memorial to permanent home
WALL TWP. — For months, we have tracked Rima Samman's journey as she sought a new location for an ever-growing COVID-19 memorial she started on the Belmar beach.
That new home is the Allaire Community Farm in Wall, where the Rami's Heart COVID-19 Memorial will continue to expand as the first national, permanent memorial for COVID victims.
Among those victims are Samman's brother Rami, for whom the site is named.
But the memorial also now includes, on rocks and stones arranged in heart shapes, the names of people whose relatives have driven hundreds of miles, or flown cross-country, to honor their loved ones.
The original design has, in general, been preserved as best as it can, Samman said.
"We found a carpenter that was willing to build shadow boxes, so that we were able to pick up each heart off the beach and glue it in there the same way it looked on the beach," she said.
One of the upgrades at the farm is that the names will be engraved, rather than written in marker.
"Now what we're doing is, we're building a garden around the memorial," Samman said. "The hearts are preserved, and then we will continue to take names, obviously."
Some of the issues with the memorial's previous location, on the 3rd Avenue beach in Belmar, were that borough officials had become concerned it could be vandalized or, that beachgoers might not know what it represented.
Plus, it was getting more difficult to contain by the day.
"Even though we announced that the project was taking a pause, we stopped at 10 hearts, locals went overnight and built an 11th heart," Samman said. "And when the 11th heart got filled, locals went and built a 12th heart."
Bringing the memorial to Allaire Community Farm has given Samman an added, personal sense of security. She remembered a day after there had been a big storm that hit the beach, and of all the rocks and stones that had been disturbed, she initially couldn't find her brother's.
Now, she'll be able to keep his memory safe.
"It's one of those things, it's all we really have right now," Samman said. "We don't have anything else that really represents our loved ones."
Check out the memorial on Facebook, and let them know if you have someone you would like to honor.
Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email email@example.com.