The novel Coronavirus claimed over 500 lives in West Alabama.

In a year filled with uncertainty and turmoil, it's easy to look at that number as one of a series of statistics; however, each of these 500 souls left behind a tremendous void in Tuscaloosa and the surrounding communities that will never truly be filled.

Carlye Chalmers, a Critical Care RN for DCH Healthcare System, experienced the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic firsthand.

"[Working during the pandemic was] Hard, fearful, but also rewarding," Chalmers said.

"Hard because there was so much new to learn. We had to work in make shift ICUs. We did not have enough staff. Hard to not have families there to be with their loved ones. It was so tough watching people communicate with an iPad--Say their good byes with an ipad. Fear for my patients not knowing if they would get better or worse, you could see their fear...fear for my family...what if brought this home to my family, my kids, my friends? I was wearing a mask at home sometimes," Chalmers said.

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"The reward is the bond I have with other nurses and Healthcare workers after this. We always considered ourselves family, but no one else has seen what we have and its something we will remember forever. The reward of discharging someone out of the ICU, the cheers... you beat this! The follow up pictures their families send us so we will forever be connected," Chalmers said.

Chalmers said she feels a tremendous amount of love for the West Alabama community and joined Terri Ledbetter, Tabitha Prewitt, and Sarah Pederson in creating a COVID-19 memorial at Tuscaloosa's Government Plaza.

"2020 was just a hard year. The pandemic, quarantine, virtual learning, unemployed, so many lives lost and so many even unable to have a proper memorial. So many sacrificed (Healthcare workers, food workers, grocery stores, teachers etc)... we just wanted to take a minute to reflect on the year. To remember those lost to thank an essential worker, to remember how the community came together. A lot of people felt alone, but we weren't alone, we were all suffering and impacted in some way," Chalmers said.

"So the memorial was to shine a light on the hope of getting past this pandemic and remembering the past year, not shoving it in the closet to pretend it didn't happen... its ok to not be ok. We have a great community family that can help you get through whatever hardship. We don't know when or if COVID will ramp back up... but this hopefully is a reminder we won't be alone. One Community: together we fought, together we remember, together we rise."

LOOK: Tuscaloosa Light Memorial Creates Touching Tribute to COVID-19 Casualties

A group of healthcare workers in West Alabama joined together to create a tribute to the lives lost during the pandemic and honor the strength and resiliency of those who survived. 

The Tuscaloosa Light Memorial will be visible to the community through 9 a.m. Monday.

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