Mario Araujo, 1st Chicago firefighter to die of COVID-19, honored in somber ceremony

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A somber ceremony honored the first Chicago firefighter to die from COVID-19. Family of the fallen prayed his death was not in vain, and that others can take this pandemic seriously.

On a gray Chicago day, the city remembers. It remembers a man who was ready to run into a burning building to save lives, but whose own life was cut short by a pandemic spreading like wildfire across the city and country.

"We can see, we can smell, we can feel the smoke and heat from a fire, but there are no tangible signs of the invisible danger of COVID-19," said Chicago Fire Commissioner Richard C. Ford II.

Mario Araujo, 49, was the first Chicago firefighter EMT to die from the coronavirus. His colleagues saluted, his family was honored as they and mourn a loss due to COVID-19 that thousands of others have endured in our state.

"We can't get Mario back to us, so the only thing we can ask to the people is to be conscious, to take care of themselves," said Luz, Araujo's cousin.

She is praying her cousin's death and sacrifice can be a warning to take COVID seriously.

"If you don't feel the pain, you don't care, you don't wear a mask, you don't use sanitizer, you don't keep your distance," she said, adding that she hopes others can see her family's pain and take heed.

Inside the fire academy, Araujo's mother and family watched his badge, number 5186, be enshrined in the building itself, his sacrifice honored.

And it's not just at the training academy. Araujo is now also honored along the lakefront at the firefighter EMT memorial for all to see.

"While Mario is no longer here with us physically, he will always be with us in spirit," Commissioner Ford said.

Araujo's name is now etched in brick alongside his fallen brother and sister firefighters, now forever part of the city he loved.

"To Mario, we will never forget you," Ford said. "My brother, my fellow member, badge number 5168 will never be forgotten."
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.