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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Opinion: Rising from the ashes

Opinion+writer+Neha+Gopal+discusses+the+recent+loss+of+sociology+junior+Marina+Stevens+family+photography+business%2C+Fonzie+Mu%26%23241%3Boz+Photography%26%23160%3Bin+a+fire+and+commends+the+community+that+came+together+to+help+the+family+get+back+on+their+feet.
Courtesy of Patrick Johnstone

Opinion writer Neha Gopal discusses the recent loss of sociology junior Marina Stevens’ family photography business, Fonzie Muñoz Photography in a fire and commends the community that came together to help the family get back on their feet.

Sociology junior Marina Stevens’ family business, the Fonzie Muñoz Photography studio, was recently destroyed in a fire. With 20 years worth of work and memories burnt, the family’s livelihood was destroyed in just an hour. The family business had always been a vital part of the community, and like a good neighbor, they were the State Farm for others in times of need. Paying it forward, in an unexpected noteworthy response, the loving community around the Muñoz business has rallied together to help the family get back on their feet.
Kind neighbors are few too scarce and in such a time filled with so many “i”s – iPhones, iMessage, i-this, i-that — we have become so disconnected to others’ predicaments. For those with stable livelihoods, affordable housing, a safe environment and access to resources, why should they care if everything is working for them? The Corpus Christi community’s decision to come together to help a family is a powerful indication that we need to reexamine public support for happiness and what our government can learn from it.
Every day, we see small businesses transform the U.S. economy by creating jobs, igniting innovation and molding strength within communities. Successful local mom-and-pop operations often bring a vibrant sense of entrepreneurship and further demonstrate the American dream. Family is a tough enough business within itself. That said, running family businesses can also be extremely rewarding. The Fonzie Muñoz Photography business in Corpus Christi is one such example.
Stevens was less than two years old when her father and mother went into the photography business.
But after just a month of moving into a new brother studio, a freak accident dramatically changed the family’s business when it went up in flames.
Editor’s Note: The cause of the fire has been retracted for the source’s legal protection. 
Luckily no one got hurt, but the damage to the building was “extensive,” as reported by KIII-TV.
“There were 20 years of memories that my dad had on file, on the hard drive, [in] paper photos,” Stevens said. “Just the idea that everything was gone at that moment was the biggest heartbreak out of the situation.”
Many small businesses have lost their footing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Muñoz family could have never predicted that a fire caused by a fallen telephone booth, out of all things, would dramatically alter the landscape of their lives. It is far too easy to chalk up such sudden hardships of others as a “part of life,” especially for people who can’t envision such destabilization happening to them. This disconnect often leads to something worse — inaction to help. Fortunately, places like College Station and Corpus Christi are rooted in goodwill, neighborliness and camaraderie.
“I think that [my parents] are very overwhelmed by the love that they were receiving rather than the struggle,” Stevens said. “When everything happened, I don’t think my dad was expecting large amounts [of love] by the [community] and how many people uprooted everything [to] go down and help.”
From capturing a newborn’s arrival to Santa pictures with children to weddings, Muñoz Photography is well known and respected in the Corpus Christi community.
“If there was a charity event going on, my dad was there. If someone was in trouble, my dad was there,” Stevens said.
Living by the simple mantra of “you should treat others the way you would want to be treated,” Muñoz received dozens of text messages offering to lend a hand in rebuilding his livelihood. Good neighbors know when the fences should come down in another’s time of need. We must be more inclined to create inclusive neighborhoods and cities that meet not only our own needs, but also the needs of those who are struggling.
With all the baggage COVID-19 brought into our lives, another sort of epidemic evolved — unkindness. In an age of polarization, xenophobia, inequality and an environmental apocalypse, we underestimate a basic principle taught in kindergarten: being kind to others. Like losing a business of two decades within an hour, we can never predict the terrible things that can happen in the blink of an eye. Such stories like that of the Muñoz family instill some hope, demonstrating the power of a community lending a hand to lift up those who need it the most — a second chance to rise from the ashes.
A GoFundMe page for the Muñoz family has been set up for those who want to donate and help.
Neha Gopal is a journalism junior and opinion writer for The Battalion.

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