Among the many speakers from across the country slated to appear on Wednesday night’s broadcast of the Democratic National Convention was a local first responder who was tapped to share his experiences and talk about why he supports former Vice President Joe Biden for president.
Mission Firefighter Robert Lopez and four other individuals of varying backgrounds participated in a discussion where they each offered their unique stories about their current situations.
Lopez, 35, said it was once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that he will never forget.
“I was excited, I was ecstatic,” Lopez said, adding that he jumped at the chance to tell the story of South Texas, an area still trying to get a handle on the large number of cases and deaths due to COVID-19 and still dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane.
“Just the opportunity to represent the Valley, Texas, firefighters in general — that was a huge experience,” he said. “I talked about the economy, how things are hurting, how with this whole COVID thing going on, the hospitals are being overwhelmed, ambulance companies are being overwhelmed.”
As part of the water team for the Mission fire department, Lopez witnessed — firsthand — the complications of tending to people after a hurricane in the middle of a global pandemic.
“We were outside doing water rescues and adding COVID patients to that was just a total different animal that we had never dealt with,” he said. “Dealing with COVID patients on a daily basis, now we’re worried — are we going to take it back home, are we going to take that to our family, our kids?”
By voicing those concerns and sharing his perspectives, he felt he was able to express and touch on the points that he wanted to, including those particular to the Valley.
“Of course, they see it,” he said. “Unfortunately, the Valley right now is getting a lot of attention due to COVID. Not the type of attention we would like, but being one of the hotspots in the country.”
For him, the discussion was like sitting outside around picnic table, swapping stories and learning from one another.
Of course, because of the pandemic, the convention is completely virtual so the five participants spoke through video messaging software.
“It was real natural,” he said. “We mingled so well and a lot of people had the same concerns — health care, right now, of course the biggest thing is COVID; job security; tax cuts — things like that that affect the working class.”
He has always considered himself part of those blue-collar workers. In 2003, Lopez became a volunteer firefighter for the city of Edinburg and was hired full time the following year. Then in 2011, he left Edinburg and started working for the city of Mission.
The International Association of Firefighters, of which he is a member, endorsed Biden for president, not just because of his support for firefighters but, because of the belief that the former vice president will do more for the working class than President Donald Trump.
In fact, Lopez said he felt Trump was leaving out the middle class.
“It’s not about party for us,” Lopez said. “We support those who support us. Democrat, Republican, it doesn’t matter who you are, what party you’re from — if you support firefighters, if you support us, our causes, we’re going to support you.”