Sara Sidner grew emotional as she discussed one family's parking lot funeral for their matriarch, who died of COVID

By Rachel DeSantis
January 13, 2021 10:56 AM

A CNN journalist reporting on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic broke down live on air in an emotional display of the pain and suffering the virus has wrought upon hundreds of thousands of families across the United States.

Correspondent Sara Sidner was reflecting upon reporting she'd recently done in South Los Angeles — where cases have been surging — when she began to cry while speaking with host Alisyn Camerota.

"I apologize. I'm trying to get through this," she said through tears on Tuesday. "This is the tenth hospital that I have been in, and to see the way that these families have to live after this, and the heartache that goes so far and so wide… It's really hard to take."

Sidner had recently interviewed Juliana Jimenez Sesma, who lost her mother and stepfather to coronavirus 11 days apart. CNN crews were present for the funeral of Sesma's mother, which took place in the parking lot of Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital to allow for social distancing.

"It's just not okay. It's not okay what we're doing to each other. These families should not be going through this," Sidner, 48, said. "No family should be going through this. So please listen to what this family is saying. Don't let this be you. Do whatever you can to keep this from killing your family members and your neighbors and your friends and your teachers and doctors and firefighters."

"All of these people are here to help you, but you have to do your part," she added.

Sidner later addressed her emotional message on Twitter, writing that while it was not her "proudest moment as a reporter," she was unable to hold back.

She explained the context of her tears even further in an essay published on CNN on Wednesday, in which she said it was "rage" toward those not taking the virus seriously that prompted her sobs.

"I felt raw and exposed and embarrassed all at once. I have long been taught as a woman 'never let them see you cry' — not in public and especially not at work. But I did that Tuesday," she wrote. "I cried. I couldn't control my tears. I couldn't use my words."

Sidner also noted that watching a mob descend upon the U.S. Capitol building just days after speaking with Sesma brought her to a near breaking point.

"When you saw me cry, you witnessed my rage," she wrote. "I care about my country. I worry about the new and old ills facing us. And I feel like my country is on life support."

The journalist's experience struck a nerve with many, including actress Jennifer Aniston, who reshared video of her on-air comments to her Instagram Story.

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"Grief is everywhere. My heart is hurting for the families who have lost someone to Covid-19… and for the healthcare workers, essential workers, and reporters who face the reality of this pandemic every single day," Aniston wrote. "We ALL need to do our part if we're going to get past this. Please please be safe and careful with each other's lives."

Earlier this week, officials in California announced that more than 3,300 people had died of COVID in a week — the highest number of fatalities in any state since New York in the spring, according to The New York Times. On Tuesday alone, 724 people died and nearly 23,000 were hospitalized in the state, according to the Times.

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