‘I hoped for a call to say Jim was ok… but it never came’

Minute's silence and shining of lights to be held to mark first anniversary of lockdown.

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Connie McCready lost her fiancé after he spent 35 days in intensive care fighting coronavirus.

Jim Russell, 51, went into hospital on March 31 – “that was the last time I spoke to him properly,” says Connie.

This month is tough for many families as we approach the first anniversary of lockdown; Covid has contributed to more than 9000 deaths in Scotland over the past 12 months.

To remember them, a minute’s silence will be held at midday on March 23, followed by people shining lights from their windows and doorsteps at 8pm that night.

Both the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Prime Minister Boris Johnson have given their backing to the national memorial.

The event will be particularly poignant for people such as 46-year-old Connie, who said: “The anniversaries of all my ‘lasts’ are coming up. Our last cuddles, kisses and conversations.”

Jim died on May 4 and Connie remembers hoping for good news each day. “All I hoped for was a call to say Jim was ok and he was coming home, but it never came,” she said.

Connie is now part of the team organising the National Day of Reflection.

“It’s not just about Covid deaths, it’s every death throughout the past year,” she said. “People in hospitals, people in care homes, people in hospices, that haven’t had their loved ones beside them.”

Prominent buildings and iconic landmarks will also light up across Scotland on March 23, including the Kelpies, Wallace Monument and Ness Bridge. 

Sturgeon said: “As we remember, we can also reflect on how far we have come in a relatively short period of time, and begin to look toward the future.

“Because of our collective sacrifice, there are people alive now who would otherwise have lost their life to the virus; and we now have vaccines, offering us hope that we can soon get back to a more normal way of life.”

On the day, there will be a series of free online talks and conversations featuring expert panels, bereaved families and celebrities throughout the afternoon.

Johnson said he would observe the minute’s silence at noon privately.

“This has been an incredibly difficult year for our country,” the Prime Minister said. “My thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones, and who have not been able to pay tribute to them in the way they would have wanted.

“As we continue to make progress against the virus, I want to thank people for the sacrifices they continue to make, and hope they can look forward to being reunited with loved ones as restrictions are cautiously eased.”