Days before the Chicago Park District announced it would install life rings around the city’s beaches, family and community members gathered at Tobey Prinz Beach Park to remember the 19-year-old who drowned there last month.
Just a couple steps away from where her son drowned, Maria Diez hugged family, friends and community members who gathered Sept. 7 to honor her son’s life and bring awareness to the lack of life rings placed along the lakefront.
“The first couple of nights I couldn’t sleep,” Maria Diez, the mother of Miguel “Maicky” Cisneros, said during her speech. “I closed my eyes and I just had that image of my son screaming for help, he had a thick loud voice.”
Cisneros drowned just feet away from Pratt Pier at Tobey Prinz Beach Park on Aug. 22, the Phoenix previously reported. Despite him being only a couple of feet away, bystanders were unable to save him — in the weeks following his death, residents said had there been a life ring in the area, they may have been able to rescue him.
Cisneros, a recent graduate of St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago, was described by family members as athletic and tall with an amazing smile.
Cisneros grew up in Chicago and his friends said he has a deep care for the city and his community members. Mario Rodriguez, a friend of Cisneros’, told The Phoenix he felt intimidated competing against Cisneros for a college scholarship.
“He just spoke with passion and value and courage about how he wanted to become a politician and everything we would do to fix his community,” Rodriguez, 19, said. “He was a bright kid and had a deep love for Chicago. [He was] always working for the betterment of other people.”
Rodriguez and Cisneros both ended up receiving the scholarship and Cisneros planned to attend Columbia University in New York City with the money.
“I should have been driving him [to New York] last week but instead last Monday I was burying my son,” Diez said during her speech. “All just because the lakefront has no life rings.”
Since her son’s death, Diez has been working with the 49th Ward Alderman, Maria Hadden, to continue to put pressure on Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Park District for not installing more life rings.
“From Miguel’s death what we can work for and what we can make of this is a change,” Hadden said. “A change to bring more safety to our waterfront, a change to the policy for the Chicago Park District, more awareness for the residents of our community, not just the lakefront community but all of the residents of Chicago.”
After weeks of back and forth between residents and the park district, the city finally announced it would install the life rings.
A press release put out by the Chicago Park District on Sept. 10 stated that life rings will be installed as well as life preserver equipment at select waterfront locations as part of a program to help reduce risks of water-related accidents and drownings.
In addition to life preserver equipment, the District will also install increased signage along the lakefront and conduct outreach with community groups to raise public awareness and enforce beach safety. The equipment will be installed prior to the 2022 beach season, the District said.
“I hope my Maicky, whose middle name was Angel, will be our angel in finally getting our city and park district officials to make a change and provide the safety equipment that our lakefront desperately needs,” Diez said on Sept. 6, four days before the district agreed to do just that.