Throughout the country, communities paused Tuesday night to remember those lost to COVID-19. In Dallas, several people gathered at Turtle Creek Park to honor their loved ones. The service was organized by Kaitlyn Urenda-Culpepper, who joined the The Floral Heart Project in recognition of Tuesday's national tribute to COVID-19 victims and their families.
Urenda-Culpepper keeps a thread of text messages she shared with her mother. Those messages are among the last heart-wrenching conversations they had.
“I was begging my mom to hold on,” said Urenda-Culpepper. “That I needed her to beat this. That I needed her to fight this because I needed her to watch my daughter, her granddaughter grow up and get married and graduate.”
Days later, her mother, Genevieve Martinez, was placed on a ventilator. Shortly after that, she was gone. Martinez became one of more than 400,000 people nationwide who lost their lives to COVID-19.
“When you magnify that and you start multiplying it out and let’s just say each person has three or four family members, we’re at 30 million people who have been affected by COVID,” said Urenda-Culpepper.
It’s why she decided to bring people together at Turtle Creek Park – to join countless others across the country grieving a loss. Each person had a story. The Floral Heart Project was launched in New York City by former Dallas resident Kristina Libby to ensure those stories are not forgotten. Flowers are strategically arranged in the shape of a heart and placed at various locations as a reminder of the impact of COVID-19. For Urenda-Culpepper's memorial service, some 300 roses were donated by Irving florist Linspired Creations.
Dallas County residents Don Timm and Liv Smith said a day of remembrance helps the healing process. They’d lost their friend Joe Bielecki last week to COVID.
The latest news from around North Texas.
“So many of us don’t get to have burial services and funeral services because you can’t gather so I think you need that outlet and the way to express your sadness for your lost loved one,” said Smith
Throughout North Texas, flowers, bells and lights served as a somber reminder that so many did not make it through the year. Urenda-Culpepper wants an official national COVID-19 day of remembrance. For now, she’s doing her part to make sure her mother and others are not forgotten.
“Nobody signed up for COVID. Nobody signed up to do this,” she said. “It’s enough and we need to be recognized.”
Urenda-Culpepper is also an affiliate of the organization Marked By COVID, which brings awareness to the far-reaching impact of the virus and works for legislative action to continue battling the pandemic.
Want to Get on a Vaccine Waitlist?
County health departments have launched waitlists for adults 16 years old and over.
You can register to recieve the vaccination in Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties. Links are below:
Waitlist Links: Collin - Search Waitlist | Dallas | Denton | Tarrant
You do not need to be a resident of the county to register for a COVID-19 vaccine in that county -- registration is open to anyone in Texas. For those without internet access, Tarrant County is also taking registrations by phone at 817-248-6299. In Dallas County, call the DCHHS vaccine hotline at 1-855-IMMUNE9 (1-855-466-8639). In Denton County, call 940-349-2585.
For a more detailed breakdown of who is included in each priority group in Texas, see this page from the Texas DSHS.
Texas COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution
Data from the Texas Department of State Health Services shows where COVID-19 vaccines have been sent around the state. Click on a marker to find out information about each location. Use the "plus" and "minus" signs below to zoom in and out of the map.
From the Texas DSHS: Availability of COVID-19 vaccines lilsted on this map are based on shipping information and reporting to the DSHS directly by facilities. Please contact providers in advance to confirm vaccination location and hours, that they have vaccine on hand and that you are eligible for vaccination at that site. Not all providers are vaccinating the public or people in all priority groups. Vaccine is available at no charge, regardless of insurance status.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
Get DFW local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC DFW newsletters.