Starting Oct. 18 at 10 a.m., the tower bell at the Congregational Church of Patchogue will begin ringing every 6 seconds straight through Nov. 1.

In total, the bell will toll 217,000 times to remember lives lost thus far in 2020 to COVID-19.

The bell tower.

(Official tallies will bring that number higher in the meantime.)

The historic church’s pastor, the Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter, says he feels people are becoming numb to the numbers, forgetting the human cost amid the pandemic.

“These are individual lives lost,” he said. “But they are also part of a national calamity that deserves, demands to be recognized, honored, and remembered. I wanted to bring this to consciousness.”

He said the bell tolling for over two weeks straight “should be a call to arms. A call to compassion. A call to sacrifice and service for the greater good.”

People have already complained to him, he says, about the planned ringing of the 850-pound bell around the clock above East Main Street.

His response? “Not as annoying of the death of an American that each toll of the bell represents.”

“At the very, very least, this initiative, just announced, and two days before the first bell has tolled, has initiated a conversation about a tragedy that increasingly seems to be minimized or downright ignored,” he said.

about that bell

The church building, which dates to 1892 and is on the National Register of Historic Places, is located at 95 East Main Street.

The brass bell itself predates the building. It was built by Jones & Co. in Troy, N.Y. in 1866, said Jeff Lewis of Verdin Bells & Clocks. He was interviewed by GreaterPatchogue’s Michael White in 2015.

Top: Jeff Lewis of Verdin Bells & Clocks in the bell tower in 2015. (file photo)

The stairs leading up to the Congregational Church’s bell are steep. (file photo)