Every weekend 15-25 of my Somali family gathered in my grandparents’ house for home-cooked food. For as long as I remember, we had been doing these meetings because they linked us together with happy moments. However, one of those dinners began a chain of events at the end of June 2020, or early July 2020, that would devastate my entire family. This is where we think we unwittingly transmitted COVID-19 to each other.

After that, everything broke out very quickly. My family members got sick and started to die incredibly quickly one by one. At least 15 family members contracted COVID-19 before everything was said and done. Almost all of them were hospitalized, struggling for their lives.

Six of my relatives died of the virus. My granddaddy, 76 years and my grandma 73 years. We lost my uncle, 45 years, and two of my aunties, also my brother Abdul 21 years old.

What happened to us was neither rhyme nor reason. My dad was a strong, energetic, healthy guy with no preexisting conditions. And he was now the sickest of those in our family who survived. Yet, many of my family members who are heavy smokers had tested positive for the virus but remained asymptomatic. Some of my uncles who have other health problems had only some symptoms, but within days they had improved.

We still all have emotional difficulties with the weight of the loss of our family. My dad who was hospitalized is heartbroken, not having my brother and granny to say good morning and good night to as they used to do every day. Our entire family is still saddened and trying to deal with the fact that one after another family members passed away, and we could literally do nothing but just pray that we do not lose any more people.

So when next time you hear someone say that COVID-19 is a hoax or nothing more serious than grip, think of my family or even better, say something about us. My aunties, uncles, and brother were all strong and healthy before this happened, and it still killed them and nearly took my dad. Children and adolescents are getting sick now, too. How can anyone say that this virus is not real and that it is just a threat, have you seen who is affected? My family has been devastated! I just don’t get it. I just don’t.

When COVID-19 affects you or someone you love, I’m here to tell you it’s brutal! Don’t joke around, do anything to avoid it. Wear a mask for the sake of God! I’m angry to hear people say that wearing a mask violates their freedoms. That’s just funny in a sad way. Wearing a mask saves lives! We are in a global pandemic. It was too late for my family to be saved, but you know what? You can save yours with this small simple act.