NEW WINDSOR, NY — A Bronx-born woman who pursued the American Dream with her husband and five children in the Hudson Valley spoke with bitterness this week about the early COVID-19 warnings they never heard about.
A new book by journalist Bob Woodward revealed that President Donald Trump seemed to intentionally downplay the coronavirus outbreak. Anguished mom Melody Aravena criticized their actions in an Instagram post.
“You knew something that could have saved so many people,” she said “I could have had my husband here with me.”
Aravena’s 44-year-old spouse, Rolando—known as Sonny—died from the lethal virus on March 29, his twin daughters’ 10th birthday.
This was six weeks after President Trump was recorded on Feb. 7 by Woodward, saying the virus was “airborne,” the audio conversations just released this past week.
On March 19, the President said, “I always wanted to play it down….because I don’t want to create a panic.”
The audio recordings were hard for Aravena to hear.
“Listening to those tapes, really, really like stabbed me in the heart,” she said.
PIX11 visited the widow and her children at their Orange County home as the twin girls and their brother, Ethan, were doing online classes inside an open-air garage.
The widow said her husband, a Verizon worker, believed he contracted the virus at a prominent Manhattan hospital, where he was installing internet cables the week of March 9.
Before his death, he told his wife he was scared.
“There are confirmed cases here,” she recalled him saying. “We don’t have any masks. We don’t have anything.”
He developed virus symptoms a week later on March 19.
“He couldn’t taste. He couldn’t breathe. He was having high, high fevers,” Melody Aravena told PIX11.
Aravena’s husband consulted urgent care and the local hospital for more than a week, quarantining in a room by himself until Sunday, March 29, his twins’ birthday.
“He always buys chocolate-covered strawberries for them,” the widow recalled. “And we did a FaceTime with him. He was in the room. And he didn’t look like someone about to die.”
But Sonny Aravena knew his condition was getting dire and asked his wife to take him to the hospital again.
This time, he was admitted.
“You know, Melody, I just want you to know I never knew a love like this before,” he told his wife outside the emergency room,
Melody Aravena, a special education teacher with a post-graduate degree, told her husband he would be fine.
But she got the call just after 9 p.m. that night: her husband was dead.
She needed to go to the hospital.
One of the twins, Ameera, remembered wanting to go with her.
“And I said, ‘Mom, why can’t I come?’ Ameera recalled. “She said, ‘You just can’t.’”
Shortly after Sonny Aravena died, his other twin—10-year-old Olivia—tested positive for COVID-19.
“It was hard,” the twin’s mother said. “She assumed she would die, too.”
But Olivia’s symptoms never seemed to progress beyond that of a bad cold, although the girl did develop some inflammation in her feet and legs and there was a bluish rash on parts of her body.
“My mom said it was just the aftermath of having COVID,” the 10-year-old girl said.
In the nearly six months since Sonny Aravena’s death, his widow used life insurance money to build a pool and patio her husband had drawn up plans for.
There’s a paver on the patio dedicated to Sonny, paying tribute to a “Husband, Father, Friend.”
White flags containing messages in Sonny’s memory adorn the front lawn, many of them from the children he coached in the Newburgh Boys and Girls Club.
One says, “You are truly missed and loved.”
The couple’s oldest daughter, Amberly, is back in college upstate.
Their older son, Jayden, is finishing U.S. Army boot camp.
Melody Aravena’s voice broke with emotion as she talked about the 2019 Christmas photo the entire family posed for, Sonny and the children wearing red plaid jackets.
“I told my husband it would probably be our last family picture,” the widow said. “And it was the last one.”
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