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The pandemic has claimed around 12,000 North Carolinian lives since March 24, 2020. To honor them, we're telling eight life stories – a cross-section of our Carolina neighbors – that ended too soon due to COVID.

A Note On Our COVID-19 Obit Series

Natalie Dudas-Thomas

One year ago, on March 24, 2020, COVID-19 claimed its first recorded life in North Carolina.

Between that day and now, the pandemic has upended our communities, our families, and our lives in devastating ways.

Some lost jobs. Others lost businesses they had spent their entire adulthood building. Many missed out on once-in-a-lifetime events, or saw them altered in ways they could never have imagined. Some got very, very sick and recovered, thanks to the incredible dedication of health professionals.

Black, Indigenous and people of color have felt these kinds of losses at higher rates – and with fewer social or familial safety nets – than our population at-large.

For nearly 12,000 North Carolinians, the loss was the worst kind of all. Covid deaths, we learned, are horrific and lonely and will take years to process – if ever.

When he marked the occasion of 500,000 lost American souls last month, President Joe Biden spoke to the survivors' anger, and remorse, like this: "For some of you, it’s been a year, a month, a week, a day, even an hour. And I know that when you stare at that empty chair around the kitchen table, it brings it all back, no matter how long ago it happened, as if it just happened that moment you looked at that empty chair. The birthdays, the anniversaries, the holidays without them. And the everyday things — the small things, the tiny things — that you miss the most."

In the spirit of remembering the people who filled those chairs and created those memories with family members, WUNC journalists are telling nine life stories – a cross-section of our Carolina neighbors – that ended too soon due to COVID.

The light at the end of the tunnel is getting slowly brighter. Vaccines are becoming more plentiful; treatments are more effective; and our communities are reawakening. We've learned a lot about ourselves and what we can accomplish when things get tough – and what many of us will, and won't, do when asked to make seemingly small sacrifices for the greater good.

What we can all agree on now is that those of us who succumbed to this terrible disease deserve to be remembered, and not necessarily by how they died, but by how they lived.

Elizabeth “Liz” Baier is WUNC’s Supervising Editor for Race, Class and Communities. She has two decades of experience than span print, audio, and digital reporting and editing.
Dave DeWitt is WUNC's Supervising Editor for Politics and Education. As an editor, reporter, and producer he's covered politics, environment, education, sports, and a wide range of other topics.
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