Paying Respects: Harlingen proclamation honors COVID-19 victims

HARLINGEN — From now on, March 1 will be a day of remembrance of those who lost their lives to COVID-19 in Harlingen.

Jennifer Gonzales, who has been working avidly to create a community that offers support to families who have lost loved ones, asked Mayor Chris Boswell and other Rio Grande Valley mayors to support her cause.

“On behalf of ‘Marked By COVID,’ I am respectfully submitting this proclamation request for the first Monday in March to be designated as COVID-19 Victims and Survivors Memorial Day. I lost my father David Gonzales to COVID-19 on Aug. 2. As long-time residents of Texas, this request is extremely meaningful and important to myself and my family,” her email to the officials read.

And on March 5, Boswell signed a city proclamation.

Gonzales said she is thankful the City of Harlingen supported her and is hoping other cities in the Valley will do the same.

“It feels really good to know that our city supports us, just knowing that they’ll give us that time and space to grieve even if it is just a day. That really means a lot. My family did not have a funeral with everyone; it was a closed funeral,” she said.

“We didn’t think it was right, and we vowed that day to our extended family members that we would have in the future a memorial for him,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales said she knows other people have been under the same situation and because of that she is working to help them grieve.

“They didn’t get to say goodbye. Now we have a day to grieve and mourn and remind people we are not alone,” she said.

“It is the people we don’t see, those are the ones who need the most help. They are severely depressed and don’t know who to talk to. We don’t want them to feel like they need to take their own life,” she said.

Gonzales said people are lucky there are enough support groups now, which at the beginning of the pandemic did not exist. In the meantime, her advocacy work does not have other plans for other projects.

“I am not sure what else the cities could do besides signing this proclamation and showing their support. This is about families that are lost and this is sending a message that you understand their pain,” she said.

At the same time, Gonzales created a petition to ask Gov. Greg Abbott to not lift the mask mandate. The petition has more than 3,000 signatures so far.

“It is like we get one step forward, and then we get ten steps back,” she said.

“The very next day of the proclamation, we hear this, in just three days we had 2,500 signatures,” Gonzales said.

Boswell has encouraged city buildings to require face masks and said he is aware Gonzales is an advocate for remembering COVID-19 casualties and survivors.

“Especially now when we are still battling COVID, we need to continue to be aware we are not finished with the pandemic yet. I thought it was a good way to raise awareness while we are trying to get people vaccinated,” Boswell said.

“I know she is passionate about it, and it is personal to her. And I know she wants to encourage people to be mindful of those who have lost their lives,” he said.

Gonzales has made a proposal to the city to create a mural to remember COVID-19 survivors in Harlingen.

Boswell said it has not been confirmed but he is for it.

“We are exploring different options, but we haven’t reached any decisions yet. But I suspect we will find a way to create some type of a memorial but we just haven’t finalized it,” he said.

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