Assemblywoman Joyner holds COVID remembrance ceremony at Joyce Kilmer Park

Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner holds a COVID-19 remembrance ceremony.
Photos by Jason Cohen

It’s been a year since COVID-19 wreaked havoc on this country and ravaged the Bronx causing unprecedented hardships no one has ever seen before.

In recognition of the anniversary, Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner held a Day of Remembrance ceremony on March 5 at Joyce Kilmer Park, honoring Bronxites whose lives have been lost to the pandemic.

As temperatures were barely above 20 degrees that morning, tears were shed as people reflected on loved ones.

“We are coming together to honor the memories of those we’ve lost in the Bronx and truly celebrate their lives,” Joyner said. “Even now a year later we’re still trying to recover from the impact from this pandemic.”

The assemblywoman noted that although the coronavirus had caused much sadness and pain, it brought people closer. She pointed out that while many people were shuttered home, the essential workers showed up to their jobs every day.

COVID-19 affected everyone in some way or another and now that the vaccine is here, the hope is slowly life can begin to resume some normalcy, she said.

“Through it all we saw the wonderful gifts of kindness, compassion and commitment to our neighbors,” Joyner commented.

Walkiris Cruz, 34, was among the attendees at the ceremony. Cruz was quite emotional as she spoke about her stepfather Juan Sanabria, who died from COVID at just 52-years-old.

Walkiris Cruz, who lost her dad Juan Sanabria to COVID-19.

Sanabria worked as a doorman at 860 Grand Concourse and was beloved in the community. She recalled that at first they thought her dad just had a cough, but eventually it got so bad he was taken to Lincoln Hospital.

She saw him once through a glass window before he passed away. Cruz, who went to school with Joyner when they were younger, knew her stepfather for 11 years.

“If you needed a smile you just looked into those big brown eyes,” she said. “He was the most important person in my life.”

After his death Cruz was not sure if she had the mental strength to finish nursing school, but she did. Today, she is a registered nurse at Columbia Presbyterian and in February became a licensed nurse practitioner.

While a big part of her is now missing, she is glad Sanabria was in her life.

“You lose your best friend you lose everything,” she said. “He wanted me to be a nurse practitioner. He is the epitome of the Bronx. He loved the Bronx.”