My name is Vivian Hernandez Valentin. I was born in Puerto Rico, and my family came to mainland U.S. when I was 8 months old. My parents came to New York with the large influx of Puerto Rican migration to other family who also came to New York. I am the first girl after 5 boys, and I have a younger sister born 10 years later.
I worked in the business world after college; I switched careers after my last job at the World Trade Center. Luckily for me, I left in 1990 and began teaching in a middle school in the South Bronx. I taught children with learning disabilities. Furthering my education, I received another Master of Education degree in School Supervision and Administration. I was appointed a middle school assistant principal in Community School District 7, where I had been done a play when I was 12 years old.
My husband and I are retired. I retired from the Department of Education after 27 years, am married and have a daughter. Retirement was an adjustment but can now do some of the things we wanted to do. I love to travel and read. I joined the Castle Hill Senior and participate in some of the activities they offer and enjoy them. The photography class was offered through a grant and it has been an experience to document through photographs our changing communities and surroundings. During this pandemic, the photography class has been a stress reliever.
March 13, 2020 was declared a National Emergency due to the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic. President Trump declared a National Emergency, suspending entry into the United States from China, Europe, and other countries. The senior center was closed. Schools, businesses, and churches were closed. Cruise ships were not allowed to dock at their destination ports. This had never happened. People were dying because of the corona virus. Hospitals were closed to regular appointments and surgeries were cancelled. People were entering into the hospital with respiratory issues from the corona virus and were not able to have a family member to accompany them. Patients died without a family member by their side. The person brought to hospital remained there with no visitors at all. Many died by themselves with no family around to comfort them. This was scary. The news was dismal. Schools were having virtual classes for students. Everyone’s lives turned upside down. We were sheltered in our homes and used all precautions when we had to go out. Masks, hand sanitizers and disinfectant were used continuously. These items became difficult to acquire. Toilet paper, sanitizers and some of the necessary medical supplies were in great demand and went off the shelves in stores. The news would break in often to update us and Governor Andrew Cuomo became a regular on our screens a minimum of two to three times a day. The number of deaths were growing daily and the number of positive exposures to the virus was also growing. The spread of COVID–19 threatened our healthcare system. The United States was not prepared to the surmounting number of deaths and exposures. Hospitals did not have the number of supplies needed for the fast-growing outbreak during this pandemic.
Our photography class continued virtually. We remained home and I started to view the world through different lenses. I took pictures of the changes occurring on Castle Hill Avenue. I documented through photography what I did: watched TV, played word games, reading, planting, and exercising. After a while we started to Zoom for our weekly classes. I looked forward to the sessions as we were able to share with each other, even if not in person. We caught up, shared what we were doing and expressed how this was affecting us.
Then, just as numbers were going down with the corona virus, George Floyd is murdered by a police officer in Minnesota. The police officer placed his knee on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds while the man was in custody and handcuffed. His tragic death resulted in the eruption of protestors nationwide and overseas. Unfortunately, some of the protestors have set fires to businesses across the country. The police officer has been charged with murder. The demands are to end choke holds and the use of excessive force from police. The demands are to end the violence, and ultimately end the war against black life. The nationwide demonstrations have brought people together for the same thing. Black Lives Matters!