Mario was born in El Salvador, and we migrated to the United States in 1973. We settled in Chicago, where I worked for Chicago Public Schools and sent Mario to Catholic schools. Mario graduated from St. Gregory High School and attended the Illinois Institute of Technology, working on a degree in computer technologies. In October 2001, he was called to become a Chicago firefighter, and he was a dedicated firefighter/EMT for over 19 years. Mario worked part-time at the Rosemont Police Department. His first assignment out of the Quinn Fire Academy was to Truck 25 in the 9th Battalion in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, where he stayed until his death on April 7, 2020.
Mario was single with a very charismatic personality. He had many friends and enjoyed time with them and his extended family and their children. Mario was always willing and able to lend a hand or financial support to his family and friends when they needed it. Mario and I shared a two-story apartment. He enjoyed traveling to El Salvador to reconnect with his cousins and cultivated many friendships through his visits. I miss my son every day and struggle with his loss to such a deadly virus.
Rogers Park is densely populated, in one of the most diverse areas of Chicago. It serves many ethnicities and people who face serious financial challenges. Mario and his company knew of the risk of exposures to COVID-19. This neighborhood was identified as having some of the highest numbers of COVID-positive patients in Chicago. Mario and his coworkers were exposed to the virus every shift they worked, and he contracted this virus early in the pandemic. Several members of this company also contracted this virus and were fortunate to recover. Mario loved his firehouse and his coworkers and would never transfer out to avoid this virus. He developed great relationships with his fellow firefighters and officers and believed that, as a firefighter, he made a difference in serving our city.
As Mario’s mother, I am sad knowing that his life was cut short and did not give him enough time to fulfill his goals and dreams. I know that he loved being a firefighter and understood the sacrifices many firefighters and paramedics make to serve the citizens of Chicago. I grieve the loss of my son every day, and meeting his coworkers over this past year helped me recognize the important role Mario and all the emergency responders played in holding down the spread of this virus. Mario passed away during the early stages in the development of the vaccine and did not survive in time to receive the treatment to be saved.