TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Community members have gathered in Tempe to honor their loved ones who died from COVID-19. The local group behind this is pushing to make it a federal holiday.
“He woke up with a cough and difficulty breathing,” said Kristen Urquiza, a co-founder of Marked by COVID. Just 19 days later, Kristin Urquiza’s father, Mark died of COVID-19. “We couldn’t be with him,” she said. “He died alone in the ICU with just a nurse holding his hand.” In just three years, Urquiza has made big strides in turning her grief into a movement.
Marked by COVID is a group of people who come together to remember the lives of their loved ones lost to COVID. “Had I not co-founded Marked by COVID I wouldn’t be here today, the grief was so overwhelming,” Urquiza said. “This is something that so many people have suffered in isolation. And part of what is important about this day is giving people permission to share what happened to them so that the acknowledgment can help people transform their grief and heal from it.”
She’s created a holiday to honor victims. “COVID memorial day is a time for us to take a breath and move past whether or not you believe in COVID and think about who is no longer with us and make sure that their loved ones have the support and care they need to carry their legacies on,” she said.
The event brought together neighbors and artists like Tina Rath, who created the Requiem Project, a piece of artwork containing circles. Each circle honors someone who passed due to COVID. So far, Rath has painted over 200,000 circles. “Trying to understand the numbers of people who were dying, the numbers became very abstract very quickly, and it’s hard to visualize,” Rath said.
Now, they’re hoping COVID Memorial Day becomes a federal holiday. With the help of Governor Katie Hobbs, Urquiza says that goal feels possible. “Having Governor Hobbs here is something that I’ve been hoping would happen for years, and I’m so happy Arizona is the first state to have a governor attend a COVID Memorial Day event,” Urquiza said.
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