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  • Writer's pictureMarilyn Saltzman


Every day I walk my dogs in the neighborhood, down a tree-lined mountain road dotted with lovely homes, each unique. Last year, a striking metal sculpture appeared in a yard on that street. At the top, in raised letters, it reads, “THE # HAS A NAME.” On the bottom is a circle with spikes emanating from it.

I wondered what it meant and asked the grandkids to guess. I reflected that our lives are full of numbers used to identify us – date of birth, student ID, grade point average, Social Security number. We even get a number when we wait in line at the deli counter.

And then there are the dehumanizing numbers used for tracking and control given to prisoners. I remembered the moving song, “Who Am I? – The Trial” from “Les Miserables.” A former prisoner, now successful businessman, ends his song with these words:

“Who am I? Who am I? I’m Jean Valjean

And so Javert, you see it’s true

That man bears no more guilt than you.

Who am I? 24601!”

Finally, I met the woman who lives in the house with the mysterious sculpture when we were both walking our dogs. I called out as she entered her driveway.

“I’ve admired your sculpture for some time now. Would you mind telling me what it means?” I asked.

A shadow crossed her face. “My mother died of COVID,” she answered. She went on to explain that the media kept talking about the number of people who died. They all had a name, so she had this sculpture made in her mother’s memory. The spiked circle represents the coronavirus molecule.

Though it was a warm summer day, I felt chills run down my bare arms. “What a lovely memorial,” I said.

“My mother is still with me,” she replied.

“Yes, she is,” I said. And now she was with me too. I asked, and was granted, permission to take a picture of the sculpture, even more powerful since I know its meaning.

1.05 million Americans died of COVID as of Sept. 5, 2022


  • My friends Dr. Stanley Gottlieb, Joyce Berman, Doreen Heimbach, Dale Judy

6 million Jews killed by the Nazis. The prisoners had numbers tattooed in blue on their forearms.


  • Johanna Plaut Cahn, mother of my dear friend Eric

  • The Schwager family, relatives of my step-father, Stanley, the sole survivor

“169 People Killed in School-Related Mass Shootings Since 1999” NBC News, Washington, May, 27, 2022


At the schools where I helped:

  • Columbine: Dave Sanders, Cassie Bernall, Steve Curnow, Corey DePooter, Kelly Fleming, Matthew Kechter, Daniel Mauser, Daniel Rohrbough, Rachel Scott, Isaiah Shoels, John Tomlin, Lauren Townsend, Kyle Velasquez

  • Platte Canyon: Emily Keyes

And countless others including 2,977 killed on Sept. 11, 2001, (our dear friend Mike’s best friend, Kit) and 43,250 annual deaths from breast cancer in the United States, (friends Tamara, Maya, Marion).

May their memories be for a blessing and let us always remember, THE # HAS A NAME.

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