As the death toll in the tri-state area swells to disastrous proportions, so does the much forgotten work of caring for the dead.
“The last 30 plus days have been a giant blur,” mortician Lauren Bowser, 33, tells The Post. “It is dark right now.”
Funeral homes, cemeteries and morgues are overwhelmed as they race to deal with the mounting body count, while families face unimaginable frustration as they try in vain to give their loved ones a proper goodbye. Photos have emerged of bodies piling up in hospital hallways and even outside of a funeral home in Brooklyn.
“I know funeral homes are lining up to pick up bodies. I know they are risking themselves for eight hours a day, being in those trucks. And the crematoriums are backed up,” says Bowser, who handles welfare cases for Middlesex County.
She recalls being approached to tend to a deceased person but she couldn’t find a crematory until May 11 — “Almost 30 days from now. We’re overloaded. It’s unprecedented and unanticipated.”
But the Piscataway, NJ-based mortician isn’t shying away from her duties, which include going into private homes and hospitals to collect bodies.
“I signed up to help people,” Bowser says. “This is an unconditional position. I signed up to help and to process and to care for the deceased no matter what.”
She wears protective equipment to pick up bodies, sometimes even doubling up on whatever gear she can get her hands on. And she describes the grim scene inside of refrigerated trailers acting as makeshift morgues outside of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, NJ.
“There are racks of people and the racks are taller than you are. And the staff is doing the best they can,” says Bowser, who digs deep to maintain a brave face and power through the tragedy.
“I try to smile and I try to stay positive and know that I am doing a service,” she says. “I want to let people know that we are all in this together.”