DENVER -- A group of Coloradans gathered Saturday morning at Denver's Berkeley Lake Park to remember those who've died from COVID-19, its survivors, and those living with lingering symptoms.
Desirae Garcia, one of the organizers, lost her 45-year-old fiance, Orlando Carbajal, on Jan. 1, 2021, to the disease.
"It's been real rough on me and my daughter ... and just trying to live life without him and trying to do the best we can without him," she said. "I never thought none of us would get this virus."
Orlando is one of at least 615,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., but Garcia doesn't want anyone to think of him as just another number.
"He was my fiance and my father to our child," she said.
Instead, she wants people to remember him and everyone else who has been affected by COVID-19. That was the goal of Saturday's gathering, organized by a nationwide group called COVID Survivors for Change.
"This is just a nice gathering to get everybody together and just remember everybody. It means a lot to me," Garcia said.
There are so many stories to tell when it comes to the impact COVID-19 has had on so many lives.— Pattrik Perez (@PattrikPerez) August 7, 2021
At 5 on @DenverChannel, hear from a woman who lost her fiance to the disease & a COVID-19 survivor w/ lingering symptoms.
All part of a nationwide effort by @SurvivorsChange. pic.twitter.com/GGANO87Uan
The support isn't just for victims' loved ones. It's also for survivors still struggling with long-term symptoms of the disease.
"It was just really scary, and I've had to go to the hospital four times," Kaila Trawitcki recalled of her experience with COVID-19.
She's what medical experts call a "long-hauler" because she is still suffering nearly a year since her diagnosis.
"I'm dealing with a lot of fatigue, shortness of breath, feeling just very inflamed everywhere. Like, just my muscles ache. My lungs feel like they're just on fire sometimes," Trawitcki said.
Neither she nor Garcia had a chance to get the vaccine before the virus got them -- or their family. It wasn't available at the time.
Now, both vaccinated, they don't want anyone else to take a chance.
"I got my vaccination for [Orlando] and my whole family [is] vaccinated. We did it for him because he would have wanted us to," Garcia said.