THE Covid-19 pandemic has cut ten-year-old Stephanie Lucky-Tirado deep.
She has not seen her father in more than six months as he is stranded in the United States due to the lockdown of Trinidad and Tobago’s borders.
And on June 17, already grappling with being apart from him, her mother died suddenly of heart failure.
The once outgoing and cheerful child has now become withdrawn, says her father, 56-year-old Trinidadian Elvis Tirado.
Tirado is now desperately trying to come home from Brooklyn, New York, to care for his daughter.
“My daughter needs me. I need to be with her. I have tried everything,” an emotional Tirado told the Express in a phone interview yesterday.
He explained that after nine years of not seeing relatives in the United States, he flew to the US on March 10 and planned to stay there for six weeks.
“I never left Stephanie for the nine years of her life, only when I came to the US in March. She turned ten on August 20,” he said.
Tirado admitted that he was not up-to-date with the news surrounding the spread of the virus.
“When I got to the US I was in different places visiting family. I was going to North Carolina, Washington, New York and I wasn’t up-to-date with the coronavirus news,” he said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Covid-19 a pandemic a day after Tirado arrived in the US.
He said when word got to him that Trinidad and Tobago was closing its borders to international flights on midnight of March 22, he sprang into action and tried to get a flight to return home.
“There were no available flights out of the US. There was nothing I could do and I accepted that because my daughter was with her mother and she was okay. They were both okay,” Tirado said.
Mom hospitalised in May
He said in May he received a call that his daughter’s mother, 48-year-old Parbatie Lucky, was hospitalised.
“She came out of hospital and she was good at home. That same day she came out of the hospital we chatted on the phone and she said everything was okay but that she couldn’t be around smoke, because the neighbour used to light fires, so she said she had to speak to the neighbours about it,” he recounted.
“June 16 was her birthday and my step-children said she was getting some pains again and they took her to Sangre Grande Hospital. She remained there all night and then in the morning, the doctor called the children and they went there. They called me crying and told me she didn’t make it. With that news something hit me and I couldn’t function. I wasn’t expecting that at all,” he said.
Tirado said Stephanie is currently being cared for by her siblings, who are adults.
But since her mother’s death, the child has not been the same, he said.
“I know something is wrong with her. Every time I speak to her she breaks down. We need to be with each other. As long as I am there I know she will be okay. That’s all I want. I don’t want money or anything else. All I want is my daughter,” he said.
The distraught father said every two to three days he has been sending letters to the Ministry of National Security requesting an exemption to return home, but so far has only received responses acknowledging his letters.
His latest letter was sent on Friday.
“On Wednesday a flight is leaving JFK International Airport (in New York) to Trinidad and I really would like to get on that flight to get home to my daughter. I just want my daughter. I love her. I just want to be with her. Please help me. I don’t know what else to do. I am willing to submit myself to quarantine. I will do anything,” he pleaded.
“Stephanie grew up with our love and now the mom has passed away and I am the only parent to give her that comforting and love. The last time I hugged her was on March 10. She just turned ten and I was not even there to buy her a cake,” Tirado said, crying.
On September 5, citizens who have spent months stranded abroad amid the pandemic were given hope with a new “liberalised” exemption policy announced by the Ministry of National Security.
Under the new policy, nationals seeking to return will be assessed in two categories — those returning from medium — to-high-risk areas and those returning from low-risk areas.
National Security Minister Stuart Young said then the Ministry of Health will follow the classifications of the WHO regarding which countries are considered high- or low-risk.
On September 12, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced that Covid restrictions, including closure of the country’s borders, would remain in place until October 11.