Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer. This year, it also marks the unofficial end of the pandemic spring.

COVID-19 has altered much of our society in less than two months, and we have yet to learn how much of the changes will be permanent. This year’s Memorial Day will certainly be different than in the past.

The area’s traditional public rituals honoring the nation’s fallen warriors this year either are canceled or turned private. Waseca’s veterans groups combined for a pre-recorded ceremony to be aired today on the city website and public access television. St. Peter’s Legion Post called off its annual ceremony in Minnesota Park. The Mankato-North Mankato programs today are restricted to participating veterans; no public allowed this year.

All this is unfortunate but wise under the circumstances. What should not be lost with the lack of formal events today is the purpose behind the traditional pomp and ceremony: Recognition of the sacrifice of lives in this nation’s wars. Area cemeteries are open today, and the public is invited, indeed urged, to visit and decorate grave sites.

Pondering death today necessarily involves the pandemic. President Donald Trump on Thursday ordered flags lowered to half-staff through the holiday: Three days to honor those Americans killed by the novel coronavirus — a total nearing 100,000 when he announced the order — and today for the holiday itself.

Civic ceremony gives way this year to private contemplation. We have much to contemplate.

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