COLUMBIA FALLS, Maine (CBS/AP) — It looks like Maine-based organization Wreaths Across America will be able to lay thousands of wreaths on veterans’ headstones at Arlington National Cemetery this December after all. President Donald Trump said Tuesday afternoon he has reversed a “ridiculous decision” to cancel the event, which the cemetery said earlier that it had made because of pandemic safety concerns.
I have reversed the ridiculous decision to cancel Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery. It will now go on!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 17, 2020
Arlington National Cemetery now says it has been directed to “safely host” the event. Coronavirus cases are spiking around the country, and the prior statement from the cemetery said organizers could not envision safely accommodating the wreath-laying.
“We did not make this decision lightly. Despite the controls developed to disperse potential crowds in time and space, and required personal safety protocols, we determined that hosting any event of this scale risked compromising our ability to accomplish our core mission of laying veterans and their eligible family members to rest,” Arlington National Cemetery Executive Director Karen Durham-Aguilera said in a previous statement. “We understand that although this is disappointing for so many, we could no longer envision a way to safely accommodate the large number of visitors we typically host during this event.”
Wreaths Across America said earlier that the decision to ax the Dec. 19 ceremony came as a shock.
“As an organization, we are shocked by this unexpected turn of events. To say we are devastated, would be an understatement,” Wreaths Across America had stated.
The tradition began when Maine wreath maker Morrill Worcester donated 5,000 wreaths to Arlington Cemetery. In recent years the number of wreaths that make their way from Columbia Falls to Arlington topped a quarter of a million.
Wreaths Across America said it has been working for months to make sure its outdoor wreath-laying events around the country follow local coronavirus protocols.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)