'I love you Daddy': Sad story behind daughter's wedding photo post

Nick Whigham
·Assistant News Editor
·5-min read

When it comes to human loss, there’s an often quoted quirk of the emotional response: One death is a tragedy, while a million deaths is a statistic.

The global death toll from Covid-19 recently ticked over 1 million but young mother Jamie Waggoner is determined that her dad isn’t just a faceless statistic of the pandemic.

Her father, Dr Phil Hassell, died of coronavirus on September 13 as she and her family looked on behind a glass window at a Texas hospital.

“When we knew my dad wasn’t going to make it, the staff allowed us to come to the hospital to say goodbye behind a glass window,” Ms Waggoner told Yahoo News Australia.

“At the time, a lady was going in there to do a routine clean, and she was covered head to toe in PPE. She told me while she was cleaning, she whispered to my dad that we were here and we loved him.”

Her mother was also hospitalised after testing positive for Covid-19.

Dr Phil Hassell pictured with his daughter.
Dr Phil Hassell, 64 of Brenham, Texas, died of Covid-19 on September 13. Pictured here with his daughter Jamie on her wedding day. Source: Supplied

“My husband is an essential healthcare worker, he was actually the one who contracted the virus first, and then from there it spread to my one-year-old daughter. My daughter at the time was being babysat by my parents, and she spread it to both of my parents,” she said.

Taking to social media following her father’s death, Ms Waggoner implored people to take the pandemic seriously, sharing a photo from her 2017 wedding with a digital memorial project called Faces of Covid so her family is “more than a statistic”.

“I’m devastated, and I do not want any more families to have to experience what mine is going through right now. Please for the love of god, take this seriously,” Ms Waggoner wrote.

“I love you Daddy”.

Covid cases surge in Texas

Coronavirus cases in Texas have surged in recent weeks, rising at a rate of 19 per cent over the past fortnight, seeing it eclipse California as the US state with the most cases – and it comes as a record number of voters have been turning up for early voting.

If Texas were an independent country, it would rank ninth in the world for total number of cases.

On Monday, in the Texas border city of El Paso, authorities instructed people to stay home for two weeks and imposed a 10pm to 5am curfew because of a surge that has overwhelmed hospitals.

Just last week, US president Donald Trump during the last presidential debate downplayed the virus’s effect in the state, saying: “There was a very big spike in Texas, it’s now gone.”

For people like Ms Waggoner, the president’s actions have proved immensely frustrating.

“Texas is a very conservative state, and a lot of people here rely on the president’s word as fact,” she said.

Jamie Waggoner pictured with her baby.
Jamie's dad only recently became a grandfather after her and her brother had their first child. Source: Facebook

“When Trump tested positive, I was hopeful that his tune would change, maybe he would actually talk about how scary this virus is, how tough it attacks your body, so people who rely on his word might take better precautions.”

Instead he did the opposite, holding himself up as an example of why people shouldn’t be afraid.

“He said that it affects virtually nobody. My dad is not a nobody. His words just gave his supporters more ammunition to fight back against masks and social distancing, and it is frustrating,” she said.

Voter turnout has Democrats hopeful of unlikely win

Texas, normally a low turnout state, has seen a record number of people lodge early votes with nearly 7 million votes already cast – more than anywhere in the country.

Just over a week before election day, Texans have already cast as many early votes as they did in 2016 and are nearly 80 per cent of the way toward hitting the total — both early and on election day — counted four years ago.

The state has not gone to the Democrats since 1976. If Joe Biden was able to flip Texas, it would be all over for Donald Trump.

That’s perhaps unlikely, but the voting bonanza has some Democrats optimistic that decades of low turnout and undisputed Republican dominance may soon be a thing of the past.

Voters wait in line in Texas for the election.
Voters wait in line at a polling location on October 13, 2020 in Austin, Texas. Source: Getty

Polls are unusually close in Texas, but neither Mr Trump or Mr Biden has campaigned in the Lone Star state, focusing on clear battleground states instead like Arizona and Florida.

That said, the Biden campaign decided Sunday that Texas was worth a visit from the nominee’s running mate, Kamala Harris, announcing that she would visit the state on Friday (local time). She will likely hammer home the Trump administration’s approach to controlling the pandemic with polls showing it is the top election issue among Democrats in the state and the second top issue among Republicans behind immigration and border security.

The 2018 midterms showed there is at least half a million voters who don’t mind switching allegiance between the two major parties but people like Ms Waggoner have made up their mind after being affected by the pandemic in the worst possible way.

“I want my father to be remembered as someone who gave so much, and asked for so little. A man who loved his children beyond measure. Who took pleasure in the small bits of life,” she said.

“I just want people to know that there’s a face behind every number.”

with Associated Press

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