In the year since the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, millions of families have endured the excruciating rise and fall of the U.S. outbreak — waves of sickness that leave untold wounds long after hospitalizations ebb and infections subside.
Some have borne the tragedy more than others, with multiple family members lost to COVID-19 in a matter of months.
For the Aldaco family of Phoenix, it has shattered a generation of brothers.
All three men — Jose, Heriberto Jr. and Gonzalo Aldaco — were lost to COVID, each at different moments in the pandemic: first in July, then December, and finally last month.
Their deaths are now among more than 530,000 in the United States, where, even as millions are vaccinated, the virus still leaves families grieving the new loss of a loved one each day.
“Those three men, they drove the family. They were like the strong pillars, the bones of the family. And now they’re all gone,” said Miguel Lerma, 31, whose grandfather Jose Aldaco raised him as his own son.
To Lerma, their deaths feel like an epic American story of resilience, courage and hard work cut short. All three came to the U.S. from Mexico and over the decades made it home for their families.
“They literally showed that you can come from nothing and struggle through all that and still build a life for yourself and your kids,” said Lerma. “It just upsets me this is the way their story has to end.”
Jose’s daughter Brenda Aldaco said that, with so many Americans gone, the magnitude of each death and its reverberations are profound.
“When you really think about each single person, each person individually, what did that person mean to someone? It’s just overwhelming. It’s overwhelming,” she said.