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Coronavirus Victims: Police Sgt. Jose Diaz Ayala


A remembrance now of a Florida law enforcement officer who died of COVID-19 this April.


Sgt. Jose Diaz Ayala was with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. He leaves behind three young daughters, all under the age of 15. The girls say they remember Sgt. Ayala as someone who could always make them laugh.

SHAPIRO: Here's his 10-year-old daughter, Gianna (ph).

GIANNA: Funny, nice (laughter) and kind. I get my catchphrases from them. This is an A-B conversation, so C your way out of it (laughter).

MCCAMMON: Ayala's 7-year-old daughter, Bianca (ph), says her father took her on adventures, like going on rides at the carnival.

BIANCA: I think he rode the scary one with me. And I think I sat on his lap, or I sat next to him. I always, like, hold his hand with two hands because, like, his hand's really big.

GRISEL PINEDA: He was a very strong guy. The girls always looked for him for security.

SHAPIRO: Grisel Pineda (ph) is the mother of Ayala's three daughters. The couple had divorced but remained friends.

PINEDA: He was extremely protective of the girls, like, when it came to boys.

SHAPIRO: One time, Ayala found out that his eldest daughter, Laylanny, had been sharing gummy bears with a boy named Michael at school.

PINEDA: And he's like, no, no, no, no, no, no. You don't share anything, especially your gummy bears, with Michael. You only share your gummy bears with your dog (ph). And that's it.

MCCAMMON: Pineda says that even after the pandemic got worse, Ayala was working overtime at the sheriff's office, despite the risks, to earn some extra spending money.

PINEDA: He had promised the girls some trips over the summer. And our daughter's quinceanera is - it's coming up. And that was a big deal, especially for a father and for his daughter. And I know that he was working a lot for that, as well.

MCCAMMON: But before that could happen, Sgt. Jose Diaz Ayala contracted the coronavirus and died on April 4. He was 38.

SHAPIRO: Ayala's daughters lost their provider, their protector. And 14-year-old Laylanny says they lost their best friend, too.

LAYLANNY: He'd talk to you like you were the same age as him, like you were equal.

MCCAMMON: Other remembrances of frontline workers are at npr.org. You can send remembrances of your own there, as well. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.