1 million empty spaces

A video series exploring the lives of those lost to COVID-19 and the legacies they left behind
A video series exploring the lives of those lost to COVID-19 and the legacies they left behind
A video series exploring the lives of those lost to COVID-19 and the legacies they left behind
April 13, 2022 GMT

Soon, likely in the next few weeks, the U.S. toll from the coronavirus will surpass 1 million. Through wave after wave, the virus has compiled a merciless chronology of loss – one by one by one. If losing one person leaves such a lasting void, consider all that’s been lost with the deaths of 1 million. From the first reported deaths on the West Coast to the brutal toll in New York, and every place in between, the nation has been marked by unfathomable loss.

These are the stories of a few of the lives lost in the pandemic, and of those they left behind.


Neil Lawyer: A father who loved singing

In February 2020, an unfamiliar respiratory illness started spreading through a nursing home outside Seattle, the Life Care Center of Kirkland. Neil Lawyer, 84, was a short-term patient there, recovering after hospitalization for an infection. On the last Wednesday of the month he joined other residents for a belated Mardi Gras party. But the songs that filled the entertainment room were interrupted by frequent coughing. Before week’s end, the facility was in lockdown. Days later Lawyer, too, fell ill. His son, David Lawyer, shares his story. (AP Video/Shelby Lum)


Jennifer McClung: A nurse who cared for all

At Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield, Alabama, staffers knew Jennifer McClung, a longtime dialysis nurse, as “Mama Jen.” When new nurses started, she took them under her wing. When staffers on other floors had questions, they called her for advice. Some nights, she woke up crying with worry about her patients, her family says. In November, McClung, 54, and her husband, John, also a hospital worker, both tested positive. She died just hours before the nation’s vaccination campaign began. Her friends share her impact on the workplace and their lives. (AP Video/Shelby Lum)


Sherman Peebles: A devoted community leader

Last August, Sherman Peebles, a sheriff’s deputy in Columbus, Georgia, went away for a week of leadership training. On the way home, he was laboring so hard to breathe he drove straight to the emergency room. The 49-year-old Peebles was widely known in Columbus as Uncle Sherman, devoted to community, church and family. His wife, ShiVanda, and best friend, Gerald Riley, share Peebles’ story. (AP Video/Shelby Lum)


Arnie Kantrowitz: A 'go-to' problem-solver for many

At 7 p.m. every evening through the spring of 2020, Larry Mass and Arnie Kantrowitz threw open the windows to thank doctors and nurses fighting for their lives – joining New York’s symphony of pan banging, air horns and raucous cheers. Mass, a psychiatrist, felt reassured by the city’s energy. But he worried about his partner, whose immune system was weakened by anti-rejection drugs required after a kidney transplant. Kantrowitz died of complications from COVID-19 on January 21, as the toll moved nearer to 1 million. (AP Video/Shelby Lum)


Words by Associated Press National Writer Adam Geller from the AP News story, A million empty spaces: Chronicling COVID’s cruel US toll.