Harlingen, Texas (KVEO) — On March 17, 2020, Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez signed an order declaring a local state of disaster due to COVID-19.

Exactly a year later, the county unveils a commemorative video detailing how they began to respond to the virus.

“The video is a first-hand look at the incredible challenges Hidalgo County faced as a grueling pandemic changed the lives of thousands,” said Judge Cortez in a press release.

Judge Cortez begins the video speaking at the McAllen Performing Arts Center to an empty audience.

“I look out at a sea of empty chairs and realize that we could fill this venue one and a half times with those who have died from this virus,” said Judge Cortez.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez speaks to an empty audience at the McAllen PAC. The empty audience is meant to represent how many people died due to COVID-19.

Judge Cortez explains that although things seem to be getting better, the anniversary of the pandemic is a good time to reflect and mourn the people that died and celebrate the “heroes” of the community.

The video ends with McAllen Fire Department Honor Guard James Traya ringing a bell 27 times, each ring represents 100 people that died in Hidalgo County, at the same time the empty chairs slowly become lighted up.

Once the bell was done ringing, a mural of photos was unveiled behind Traya, featuring those that have died in Hidalgo County.

Judge Cortez announced that he is creating a citizens task force to brainstorm different ideas to create a permanent memorial for the pandemic.

The task force will be assigned to honor those who died due to COVID-19 and how to best memorialize the “community’s inspiring response.” They must also recommend a budget and a venue.

Each commissioner has been asked to appoint a member to the task force by July 1.

“I want this memorial to honor the dead but also to celebrate those who endured. I’m so grateful that what I see is a strengthened sense of community,” he said.

According to county records, a total of 2,718 people died from COVID-19.

Watch the full video below:

Courtesy: Hidalgo County