TAMPA, Fla. - The upcoming Fourth of July holiday marks an unofficial turning point in the pandemic, with mass celebrations and a return to normalcy. However, there is a push for Americans to add the color yellow to their red, white, and blue this weekend. It is a way to acknowledge and remember the lives lost to COVID-19.
Earlier this month, the United States reached a grim milestone, the death toll from COVID-19 topped 600,000.
"Every number is a person, and every one of those people have a family and friends that are left heartbroken," said Debra McCoskey-Reisert.
The Citrus County woman is one of those millions grieving. Her older brother, Bobby, died from the virus on April 29, 2020.
"Bobby was just such a wonderful guy. I mean, like the nicest guy, he had this unique ability to see other people's needs," she said.
The 55-year-old had intellectual disabilities, and had been living in a facility in Indiana for the last few years.
Debra says Bobby passed away suffering and alone.
"He died in the most cruel fashion because the virus, it caused him a lot of pain when he coughed, it was that kind of cough that you could just hear that it hurt," said Debra.
After losing Bobby, seeing restrictions rolled back, and the country opening up felt like the reopening of a wound. Debra found the support and advocacy group COVID Survivors for Change to help her work through the PTSD, anxiety and depression.
"I'm connected with people that understand they understand the trauma, they understand the sadness, they understand the grief, they understand the anger, they understand all of it," she said.
Debra has made it her mission to keep Bobby’s memory alive. COVID Survivors for Change wants you to help honor the people killed by coronavirus by "adding yellow" to your red, white and blue this Independence Day.
"My husband and I are going to a barbecue where we will bring yellow plates and napkins so that we can remember those that we've lost to the pandemic and those who are still suffering from COVID symptoms," said Debra.
The color yellow has historically symbolized support and remembrance for lost loved ones, and the yellow heart has become a symbol of COVID loss, hope and survival.
LINK: Learn more about COVID Survivors for Change by clicking here.