'Time hasn't changed anything': Amid missed milestones, Junior's mother grieves his loss
Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz missed yet another birthday in November and he won’t be graduating high school this month. Instead of celebrating those milestones, his mother is remembering the day he died.
"Time hasn't changed anything. I feel the same as the first day happened,” said Junior’s mother, Leandra Feliz.
She says her home reminds her of a face that was always smiling. "I'm the mother and they kill me -- they kill two people at the same time -- they kill him and they kill me because I am living death in life,” said Leandra Feliz.
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Her then-15-year-old son was stabbed to death on a Bronx street corner by the Trinitarios gang after prosecutors say he was mistaken for a rival.
This past year has been eventful for Leandra Feliz, who works as housekeeping at St. Barnabas Hospital and had to go to work during the coronavirus pandemic.
"COVID-19 is everywhere, not only in the hospital -- we receive the people in the hospital -- it's everywhere. I am not scared -- I just go in,” said Leandra Feliz.
Leandra Feliz says she had a scare in March when she became very sick, but says she later tested negative for COVID-19.
"At the end of May I was feeling already -- June is coming and that makes me feel something in my heart shaking, worry, sadness,” said Leandra Feliz.
Dr. Richard Izquierdo Health and Science Charter School was forced to celebrate the class of 2020 virtually, and Junior’s absence was deeply felt.
"No matter how you try to recreate it -- on a video or even just pictures -- it will never be the same because physically he is not here to accept his diploma,” said teacher Arndray Gay, who bonded with Junior over basketball as his Physical Education teacher.
Leandra Feliz says she relies heavily on her faith to carry her through these difficult times.
"Only God gives me the strength and the power to be standing up today,” said Leandra Feliz, "I'm still thinking about -- I have to see or wait to see what kind of regret those people feel because if they don't regret what they did -- for me -- they anyway are going to pay."
She says she plans on commemorating a Mass for her son on the second anniversary of his death.