The evening started with five WWII-era aircraft performing a flyover at 4:30 p.m. over the Colorado state Capitol.
Then, at 6 p.m., buildings across the state turned their lights to magenta, which represents universal love, compassion and kindness.
A virtual remembrance ceremony was held at 6:30 p.m. The ceremony started with a prayer from Pastor Josh Kingery of Red Rocks Church, which is the second largest church in the state. Kingery took a moment to recognize the nearly "6,000 souls that we’ve lost," but also offered words of assurance.
"We can have hope. We ask that you grant us an unshakable peace to each and every person who has lost a loved one," Kingery said.
Following the prayer, Gov. Jared Polis took to the podium.
"No leader — I don’t think any of us — can ever be fully prepared for the news of the last year: A once-in-a-generation pandemic took the life of the very first Coloradan just less than a year ago and that there would be much more loss to come," Polis said.
In the beginning of the pandemic, Polis said parents didn't expect to be juggling work and their children's online learning. No one knew it would be so long before they could safely visit loved ones, how drastically life would change or how much loss Coloradans would experience.
"These aren’t just numbers that are collected and entered in a database, or shown on a dashboard or a map. Every number has a story. Every number has a name, a person – people that are left behind. These are nearly 6,000 of our grandmothers and grandfathers; our moms and dads; our brothers and sisters; our aunts and uncles. And yes, in some cases, our sons and daughters," Polis said. "They’re our neighbors from down the street, next door. The friendly cashier at the grocery store. The doting husband and father. The veteran who served America overseas only to lose the final battle to an invisible enemy. The maintenance worker at our kids’ school. Your friends and family, and my own friends: Rachel, Corky and Nino. They are you and they are me. They are our fellow Coloradans."
But through it all, Polis said the last year has also brought out the very best in so many Coloradans. Health care workers showed up every day fighting to save lives. Educators worked tirelessly to bring learning online, and later get students back in the classroom. Businesses fought to keep their doors open. Volunteers are showing up to help administer lifesaving vaccines.
"It’s just who we are. Amidst this love and kindness, there’s no question that the very foundation of all of our lives has been shaken by this experience. And I know that sometimes, it can feel like just getting through another day can be a victory," Polis said. "It’s been a year, Colorado. It’s been a hard year."
But with three vaccines — Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen — Polis reminded Coloradans there is hope on the horizon and the end of the pandemic is in sight.
"In the coming weeks and months, I'm confident that there will be much more to celebrate. But tonight, let us take a moment to honor our own sacrifices and sit with the memory of those who are no longer with us," Polis said.
After Polis' address, Mary Louise Lee, along with the Colorado Symphony, performed a special rendition of "Amazing Grace." The performance can be seen in the player below.
"As survivors, it’s our responsibility to wake up every day and live our own lives as best we can because a year after this pandemic came to Colorado, nearly 6,000 Coloradans have died from COVID-19 and they have no days left," Polis said. "And we live our days in their memory and in celebration of their lives. Let them be our inspiration in these dark times as the sun gets ready to rise once again on a hopeful new day."
You can watch the full virtual remembrance ceremony below.