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.
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: