Commentary: Texas remembers: Reflecting on COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day

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On March 4, Texas will celebrate the inaugural COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day to remind us of our state’s strength, sacrifice and unwavering spirit during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. As the author and sponsor of Texas House Bill 2166, which established the COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day during the 88th Legislative session, we are honored to reflect on the profound significance of this historic event.

COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day is dedicated to recognizing and celebrating the contributions and sacrifices made by Texans who played crucial roles during the COVID-19 pandemic. These individuals include healthcare professionals, first responders, essential workers and others who worked tirelessly to support their communities during those challenging times. From the doctors and nurses to the grocery store workers and long-hauling truck drivers who kept us all safe: We see you and we thank you.

Texas faced unprecedented challenges when the first COVID-19 case was reported in our state on March 4, 2020. The virus has claimed the lives of nearly 95,000 Texans, causing immense pain and difficulties for families and communities. COVID-19 did not discriminate — regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability, we all lost someone.

It was a confusing and scary time. We remember when grocery stores were out of food (and toilet paper, for some silly reason) and we stood in line outside the store until we were allowed inside in small numbers. We remember when personal protective equipment was in scarce supply and individuals were making masks out of scraps of fabric found in their closets or from old unmatched socks. We remember when we stayed at home, except for emergencies, and restaurants, bars and theaters were closed. We remember when we did not know how COVID-19 spread or if there were enough ventilators for our loved ones who got very sick. It hurts to remember. And we are glad we are on this side of the virus, the side where the economy is fully open and in recovery; the side where we have vaccines to protect individuals; the side where we have enough PPE that people are giving away their stored rations because they do not want to remember being afraid of the unknown.

Things are much better now — almost back to normal — and we do not want to dwell on the pain of the past. But we do want to be sure that our frontline heroes know they are seen, they are appreciated and that we will not forget those who died during the pandemic.

During the pandemic, we witnessed the bravery and selflessness of our frontline heroes. Healthcare workers, first responders and essential workers stepped up with unwavering courage, risking their own safety to care for others. They worked tirelessly, often under unimaginable circumstances, to save lives and keep our communities safe. Many of them died while saving others. COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day is a testimony to their sacrifice and a reminder to Texans to never forget those who kept us safe.

As we gather to commemorate the inaugural Texas COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day, we invite all Texans to join us in honoring the memories of those we have lost and in expressing our gratitude to the heroes who continue to serve on the front lines. The commemorative event, set to take place from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. March 4 at Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance, will serve as a celebration to honor our heroes and remember those we have lost.

This day is not only about mourning the past but also about honoring the present and embracing the future with determination. It is a testament to the strength of our collective spirit and a reaffirmation of our commitment to building a brighter tomorrow for all Texans. In memory of those we have lost and in solidarity with those who continue to face the virus, let us make March 4 a solemn day of remembrance, gratitude and renewed determination.

For further information or inquiries about the inaugural COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day Celebration, please contact Daphne Alcala at [email protected] or Stephanie Chiarello at [email protected]. We look forward to welcoming you to this momentous event.

Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra represents House District 41 and Sen. Morgan LaMantia represents Senate District 27 in the Texas Legislature.

R.D. “Bobby” Guerra
Morgan LaMantia