Audrey Jensen Arizona Republic
(CNT) City News Talk #arizona
Lit candles placed on 500 chairs outside the Capitol Friday night served as a memorial to the more than 5,900 people in Arizona who have died of COVID-19.
Organized by Marked by Covid founder Kristin Urquiza, the Phoenix Day of the Dead COVID Memorial and Get Out the Vote event was held in remembrance of those who lost their lives to the novel coronavirus.
“The idea for this celebration tonight, this memorial, is to create a space for us to mourn out loud,” said organizer Kristin Urquiza, who said that each chair represents people in Arizona who have so far died from COVID-19.
Urquiza’s father, Mark Urquiza, died on June 30 at 65 years old following complications from COVID-19. She publicly blamed both Gov. Doug Ducey and President Donald Trump for his death.
Urquiza told the crowd of about 30 people that “this is the most consequential election of our lifetimes,” and encouraged them to vote.
“We wanted to remind ourselves of what we have already lost and what we stand to lose if we do not vote,” she said.
An altar decked with fruit, flowers, candles, a cross and other items was surrounded by images of people who died from COVID-19. More than 50 families shared photos of their loved ones for Friday’s memorial, Urquiza said.
“These are the types of spaces that we need to recognize this colossal loss, to be able to honor the people that we have lost and to vow to never let this happen again,” she said.
Patricia Rosas, Gustavo Cruz and Reyna Polanco — friends of State Rep. Raquel Terán, who is recovering from COVID — created the altar at Friday’s event, Urquiza said. They explained the history and significance of the Día de los Muertos altar to the crowd in both English and Spanish.
“Like many of you know, this pandemic is disproportionately impacting communities of color, Latinx communities, Indigenous communities, Black communities, and so we thought it would be really important to bring some of those cultural pieces forward,” Urquiza said.
Other speakers took the stage to share their stories such as Todd Bailey, a “COVID activist,” who shared what happened to his aunt, Kathy Jones and his mom, Joyce Bailey.
Although he and his mother caught COVID-19 and have since recovered, his aunt died from the virus in July, he said.
“My fabulous, unsinkable aunt Kathy, a self-made woman … bought the first house on the block as a Black woman in Chandler. We’re all very proud of her, and she’s gone,” Todd Bailey said. “We’ll miss her and we’ll stay positive but we’re in a historic time right now.”
Joyce Bailey, who sang Amazing Grace during the memorial, said everybody loved her little sister, Kathy Jones, who she said was “a light.”
Todd Bailey urged people to trust science and doctors and to “do the right thing,” he said.
“When this touches your family, there’s only one number that’s going to matter and that’s the person that passes from this,” Bailey added.
After a few speakers shared how their lives have been impacted by COVID-19, everyone held a lit candle as Urquiza read a portion of the names of Arizonans who died from COVID-19. She then asked the crowd to hold a moment of silence.
State Rep. Athena Salman and Rep. Terán hosted Urquiza’s event at the Capitol, Urquiza said. Terán, who was also an organizer, could not attend since she is recovering from COVID-19, Urquiza said.
“I cannot thank you from the bottom of my heart for organizing and bringing this event to the Arizona Capitol, to really humanize the numbers to really put a face to, now the nearing 6,000 Arizonans who have perished from this deadly disease,” Salman said.
As of Oct. 30, nearly 6,000 people have died from COVID-19 across the state, according to Arizona Department of Health Services data dashboard.