'He was my North Star.' OC resident loses dad to COVID, wants people to know he's not just a statistic

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Last July, Costa Mesa resident Samantha Chagollan lost her 89-year-old father to COVID-19. The pain still brings her to tears.

"He was my biggest supporter and he's going to be terribly missed," she said.

She wants people to know that her father Manny isn't just a number - he was a veteran who loved music, was always on the dance floor and was a huge L.A. sports fan.

"I miss him a lot. He was my North Star, he was an amazing guy," she said.

Chagollan recently opened up about his death in a call for COVID monologues through the Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble, based in Santa Ana.

"We hope that by offering this platform, by offering this way of connecting with our community, that this is another way of healing, also reminding us of what we've lost in the process," said Sara Guerrero, Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble.

In Chagollan's monologue, she digs into some of the raw emotions.

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"Not being able to have a funeral, or a gathering, not being able to mourn together, it's all those things," she said.

"It is an honor to support Samantha along with many of the other writers and to let them have this opportunity to share, mourn and celebrate the ones that they've loved and lost," Guerrero said.

Earlier this week, the U.S. COVID death toll reached 500,000, matching the number of Americans killed in World War II, Korea and Vietnam combined.

Latino Health Access sees the grim milestone as an opportunity to look at ways to close the inequity gaps.

"You're also going to be alleviating and stopping the contagiousness at the point where we have major outbreaks," said Dr. Gloria Giraldo.

The Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble is accepting their second round of submissions of COVID monologues. To do so, go to BreathOfFire.org. The deadline is March 1.

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