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Deep In Our Hearts Memorial Pays Tribute To 3,400+ San Antonians Lost To COVID-19

 Rosa Torres writes the name of her son David Alvarado on a heart hanging on a chainlink fence.
Joey Palacios
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Texas Public Radio
Rosa Torres writes the name of her son David Alvarado, who died from COVID-19 at the age of 53 last July.

A new memorial to the victims of COVID-19 has been set up in Downtown San Antonio.

The installation — called Deep In Our Hearts — contains more than 3,400 hearts on a chain fence that border two full city blocks around HemisFair at South Alamo and Market streets. One red heart for every person that has died in Bexar County, as of Thursday, that number is 3,457.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg speaks with a resident beside the new memorial for lives lost to COVID-19. / Joey Palacios
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It's the first visual representation of the lives lost during the pandemic. Most of the hearts are blank but the public is invited to write the names of their loved ones, attach a picture, or write a prayer on a heart.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg has been one of three faces seen and heard chronicling every death and update on the virus during — what were — nightly updates in the virus’ spread. He says every person who died mattered.

“You know you get carried away with the numbers but what we tried to do is make sure people remember every single one of those numbers represented a loved one,” he said.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff noted that more than 222,000 people in the county had tested positive for the virus since March of 2020, but said the number could be much higher overall.

“We’ve all been touched by this, I don’t know of a family that probably hasn’t been touched by this,” Wolff said. “We lost our nephew, late 50s, good health, refused to recognize he had it, woke up, went to bed and never woke up again. I lost my best friend to it. It’s a terrible way to die, his wife couldn’t go to see him, I couldn’t go to see him.”

 Min. Joseph Swisher was one of thousands of San Antonians who lost their lives to COVID-19. Each life is memorialized with a red heart, displayed downtown.
Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
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Min. Joseph Swisher was one of thousands of San Antonians who lost their lives to COVID-19. Each life is memorialized with a red heart, displayed downtown.

More than 8,000 people had been admitted to the hospital with the disease during the pandemic.

Rosa Torres was one of at least two dozen people attending Thursdays’ ceremony. She wrote the name of her son David Alvarado, who died at age 53 last July on a heart. He was a graduate of Jefferson High School and was a mariachi. She described him as full of life and recalled her last conversation with him.

“The last time that he called me, he called me and he was already in the hospital and he said ‘Mama they’re going to put me on a ventilator’ and that was the last time that I talked to him. And from then on, I couldn’t see him, I couldn't speak to him. We could only see him through the window,” Torres recalled.

She said over the last 10 months, she’s felt withdrawn and kept to herself, but that the memorial is a comfort.

“It does help me to try and continue my life — because he was my only son — to continue my life the way I know he wanted me to,” she said.

 Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff speaks at a dedication of the new memorial to lives lost to COVID-19.
Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
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Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff speaks at a dedication of the new memorial to lives lost to COVID-19.

Audrey Wagstaff lost her 30 year old son to COVID. He died in April of 2020 and was one semester short of graduating from Texas A&M San Antonio. He was awarded with an honorary posthumous degree. Wastaff said she’s grateful that the city and county are remembering the loved ones lost.

“My son was awesome… he was just so caring and kind and sweet. Anyone that knew him would tell you that, that he was such a good person. When I read people have lost someone to COVID, I hear that a lot. I want people to know COVID is taking everyone. It’s taking the good people,” she said after the memorial ceremony.

For Sharon Swisher, life has been an adjustment with the support of her friends after her husband Joseph died of COVID-19 on Easter Sunday. She attached a picture of him on one of the hearts near the center of the memorial.

“He had such an infectious smile and laugh, he knew not one stranger,” she said. “He loved to dance, we would go to events and we would dance the night away. I would get tired and I would say ‘Well you can dance with everyone else in the room but I’ll just take a seat.’ But he loved life and life loved him back.”

The public is invited to add the names, attach a photo or add a memory of those who have died of COVID-19. The temporary memorial will be up for about two months.

 The city invited family members to write the names of their loved ones and prayers on red hearts at the new memorial.
Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
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The city invited family members to write the names of their loved ones and prayers on red hearts at the new memorial.

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