EDINBURG — Emergency sirens were a good sound to hear Wednesday night.
Called “Lights of Hope,” the event gathered first responders from local emergency medical and law enforcement agencies to the Edinburg Regional Medical Center parking lot Wednesday to shine their lights and blare their sirens as a sign of hope amid the fight against COVID-19.
Martha Ornelas, a local chaplain, said a prayer before the lights demonstration commenced. As a local student sang the National Anthem, fire trucks raised the American flag and first responders turned on the sirens and lights of their vehicles, and the parade made its way to the South Texas Behavioral Health Center nearby.
A glow of red and blue coated the lot as the motorcade of fire engines, ambulances and police vehicles activated their emergency sirens and lights.
Some of patients who looked onto the illuminated display are currently being treated for COVID-19 or symptoms consistent with it; even patients fighting different battles are suffering from the pandemic, left isolated since the hospital closed to visitors almost a month ago.
“We understand that the residents of the hospitals and patients are not getting visitors at this time, so this is our way of basically letting them know that they’re not forgotten, that we are here to support them the best way we can,” Edinburg police spokesperson Arielle Benedict said.
Patients at the center looked down from their windows at the glowing blue and red lights. One young patient of the Edinburg Children’s Hospital, which is right alongside the medical center, pointed a flashlight out of their window toward the first responders. The silhouettes of several more kids in their rooms could be seen through the windows, looking down at the procession.
Using sirens and emergency lights was the best way to send a positive message to those kids while not directly interacting with the center’s patients or staff, Benedict said.
“With everything going on, with social distancing and the curfew and quarantine, there’s not much we can do in making contact with the residents of the hospital or the employees of the hospital,” she said. “So the least we can do is be outside, properly social distancing, and pay our respects for all the hard work that the hospital and staff are putting in.”
South Texas Health System Edinburg CEO Lance Ames said that coming together for the display was important given the current climate.
“This has been a really challenging time for all of our community,” he said. “We want to be able to take the time to recognize and share a light with all of our first responders, all of our law enforcement, our healthcare workers in the hospital and just be able to come together as a group to recognize the amazing things that everyone has been doing to serve our community.”
Ames said seeing the agencies come together in solidarity was encouraging.
“This is really inspiring for me as a healthcare provider and for our entire team, we work day in and day out to serve our community and be on that front line. To have that response that we have from all our community first responders and law enforcement, Border Patrol, it means everything to us,” he said.
According to Ames, STHS McAllen hosted a similar demonstration in early April. The Edinburg branch wanted to honor its employees and inspire its patients as well, he said. The effort prompted the hospital to invite first responders from across the region to Wednesday’s demonstration.
“As we reached out, more and more people just said, ‘We are all part of the Edinburg community.’ They came to us saying, ‘Even if we’re out here in Weslaco or Donna, we support your facility and you all support us, so we want to be there for you,’” he said.
Ames emphasized that community members should feel confident in the Rio Grande Valley’s nurses and doctors’ ability to guide the region through the pandemic.
“No matter what health system, or whatever company we are with, COVID-19 has really united us to work together and put boundaries aside, and see one big Rio Grande Valley family,” he said. “We are all in this together. We have got some of the best preparation in the country here in the Rio Grande Valley, and our community can trust us to take care of them.”