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Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

Remembering Diligence: Senior Vaishnuv Thiagarajan Creates America’s First COVID-19 Frontline Workers Memorial

Vaishnuv Thiagarajan
Vaishnuv Thiagarajan stands proudly in front of his completed monument in front of the Austin Public Library. Each pillar that Vaishnuv built himself represents a sector of frontline service.

While the whole country was in lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, Vaishnuv Thiagarajan ’24 witnessed frontline workers sacrificing their lives and safety to help those in need fight against COVID-19. To honor their hard work in serving the community in this time of crisis, he spent the last 18 months working with the City of Austin and the Austin Public Library to build America’s First COVID-19 Frontline Workers Memorial, a monument dedicated to forever symbolizing and remembering the efforts of the frontline service during the pandemic.

Vaishnuv seized the opportunity to make his vision a reality by starting his Eagle Project, a meaningful service project in Boy Scouts that serves an important cause. Through hard work and Inspiration to make a difference, Vaishnuv used this project to commemorate the losses of the frontline workers during COVID-19 and proudly presented the finished Eagle Project on Feb. 25. 

“During the pandemic there were many frontline workers that were just being talked about on the news and there wasn’t any action being taken to commemorate the sacrifice of the people who passed away serving on the frontline from various sectors,” Vaishnuv said. “The only COVID-19 frontline workers memorial that existed at the time when I was working on this project was in Chile and not anywhere else in the world, and I thought building one in the US was a good idea.”

Vaishnuv thought of how to bring his idea into fruition. He brainstormed ways to drive attention to his project, which supplies he would need, and the costs of turning the Eagle Project into a reality.

“I started by doing a lot of brainstorming of what I want to do for the Eagle Project which is kind of unorthodox,” Vaishnuv said. “Usually people will find a beneficiary or an organization that they would like to help and they’ll just ask ‘What can I do for you?’ I knew that Westwood High School is an organization that a lot of people do projects with and I wanted to do something different so I came up with an Idea first and then found a beneficiary that would allow me to do that.”

The memorial, currently located in front of the Austin Central Library, includes seven pillars made of wood and other materials.

“I built the seven pillars to not only represent each section of frontline service, but to also represent the seven continents and the seven different ranks in scouting,” Vaishnuv said.

The City of Austin is planning to move the wooden memorial to the second largest branch of the Austin Public Library in Southwest Austin.

“Normally memorials that you see are giant stone statues or structures like the Washington Monument and I wanted to do something different,” Vaishnuv said. “I had a budget of less than $2000 and I had to design a modular, portable memorial that was easy to transport, which was really tough because there aren’t really any currently in existence.”

Moreover, the memorial stands as a poignant symbol, not only honoring those who worked on the frontline during the pandemic, but also as a solemn reminder to the future generations. On April 11, just two months after the project was completed, the City of Austin came together and hosted a press release event for the opening of the memorial in front of the Austin Public Library, celebrating the monument. This gathered the attention from various news outlets such as FOX News and Community Impact and appeared on the Scout Life magazine. This overflowing attention finally made the frontline workers who lost their lives be seen.

“The memorial doesn’t only exist to honor those who lost their lives to better the community during the pandemic, but it’s also there to serve as a reminder to future generations about the consequences of not taking action,” Vaishnuv said. “Even though the U.S. has been through two major pandemics before COVID-19, like the Swine Flu in 2009 and the Spanish Flu of 1918, there were no memorials built. Despite the previous pandemics, we still were vastly unprepared, which is why it is important to not only honor the fallen but to also warn the future.”

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About the Contributor
Sophia Cortes
Sophia Cortes, Dreamcatcher Staff
Class of 2026 Hi I’m Sophia and I am a member of Student Press! When I’m not in the press room and have time for hobbies you may catch me crocheting, drawing, or creating art in general.

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    Scott SeamonSep 9, 2023 at 12:13 am

    This is awesome!

  • A

    AnonymousSep 8, 2023 at 5:22 pm

    Fantastic project!