The coronavirus pandemic’s toll is often talked about as a number, ever growing – 2,000 dead. 15,000. 50,000. 200,000. Behind each one is a story, of a life well lived or cut short, of love, of perseverance, of heartache, of dancing, of laughter, of sacrifice, of bucket lists, of generosity.
Associated Press reporters around the world are working to capture these stories in a series called “Lives Lost.” Each is told individually, often with audio remembrances and photos from family members.
They are the stories of ordinary people who have sometimes done extraordinary things, or have had a profound impact on the loved ones they left behind or the communities they helped to build. When the pandemic is over, and life returns to normal, the biggest scar will be all the lives lost.
Here are just a few of them – a virtual scrapbook of a life:
“We would all lean on him.”THE IMMIGRANT DOCTOR – ENGLAND
Amged El-Hawrani saw himself as a regular guy even though his path to becoming a respected doctor in Britain was anything but ordinary. Born in Sudan, El-Hawrani’s family moved to England when he was 11. Intelligence and inner strength helped him climb the ranks in the medical profession and be the person so many family members would lean on. The 55-year-old doctor’s legacy was not only medicine, but his family, specifically his 18-year-old son.
Read more about El-Hawrani’s life and journey to become a doctor.
“This was such a unique love.”THE UNLIKELY COUPLE – NEW YORK
Edward Porco, 89, was a by-the-book, buttoned-up Republican committeeman whose opinions could be quick and blunt, who prized punctuality, planning and order. Joan Powers, 90, was a free-thinking, authority-snubbing liberal who would draw stories out in meandering conversation, found a home in protests and never let a rule get in her way. They were as surprised as everyone else when they fell in love. And till the very end, they cherished their differences.
Read more about their love story.
“She had an angelic voice.”THE FLAMBOYANT SINGER – PORTUGAL
Hannelore Cruz, 76, used to deliver a message to her grandson: Don’t let difficulties stand in the way of your goals. To prove it, she’d point to her own life. A refugee at age 5 from her native Austria after World War II, she grew up in Portugal and thrived despite the challenges of language and culture. She did it with a flamboyant style unusual in Portuguese society – and a singing voice that “lent magic” to wherever she performed.
Read more about Cruz, including her life as a singer.
“She was that shining star in the room.”THE QUEEN DANCER – MICHIGAN
With long, flowing hair and a smile that could light up a room, some friends called 47-year-old Laneeka Barksdale “the queen” of Detroit-style ballroom dancing, a soulful dance popular in the African-American community. She knew every variation, from a basic two-step to more sophisticated moves that had her gliding elegantly across the floor with a contemporary twist on the tango and waltz. For her brother, that love of dancing and her “infectious laugh” made her “the shining star in the room.”
Read more about Barksdale’s love for dance.
“Everybody wanted to be around her.”THE NEW MOM – BRAZIL
Born poor in Brazil, a nation with chronic inequality and limited social mobility, Rafaela de Jesus Silva was clawing her way to a middle-class life by working all kinds of jobs while studying to be a teacher. An easy-going personality and wide smile made the 28-year-old the kind of person who drew others in. As she got close to finishing her degree, she was also excited about arguably her biggest job yet: becoming a mother.
Read more about Silva’s life journey.
“He was proudly, shamelessly himself.”THE HOLOCAUST SCHOLAR – INDIANA
Isaiah Kuperstein immersed himself in obscure corners of Holocaust research, shared stages with the likes of Elie Wiesel and insisted to anyone who’d listen how essential the lessons of genocide remained. He helped shape the way children were taught about the slaughter of Jews through a landmark museum exhibit. More than anything, though, the 70-year-old sought to see his Jewish heritage live on in his own family.
Read more about his efforts to educate the public about the Holocaust.
“She lived her life like everybody should.”THE ADVENTUROUS SURVIVOR – NEW HAMPSHIRE
For most of her adult life, Joanne Mellady suffered from a lung condition that made breathing very difficult. After getting a double lung transplant in 2007, the woman who had always been shy and reserved began embracing life in a way that inspired everyone who knew her. No adventure was too extreme for the 67-year-old, no location too far away to visit and no item on the bucket list could be ignored.
Read more about how her life inspired others.
“Welcomed everyone with arms open wide.”THE BISTRO’S HEART – FRANCE
When she wasn’t running her own restaurant, she was eating out. And when she wasn’t giggling, she was sending everyone around her into gales of laughter. For more than three decades, Viviane Bouculat, 65, was the owner, impresario, cook and bottle washer at l’Annexe, a bistro in a Paris suburb. Over the years, the restaurant became a haven for local artists, actors and musicians. She had a way of turning customers into friends, and friends into confidants.
Read more about the impact Bouculat had on her community.
“She kept everyone together.”THE DEVOUT MATRIARCH – LOUISIANA
To her extended family, Mary Louise Brown Morgan, 78, was the matriarch who went out of her way to make sure they were OK. She helped care for a dying brother and a friend’s children. She flew to New York to cook Thanksgiving dinner for her grandson and his medical school colleagues. “Everybody loves her pies and cakes,” he said. Through it all, a constant was her faith, so deep it was that she’d tithe her last dollars to her church.
Read more about Morgan’s faith.
“He was a noble knight.”THE GENEROUS DOCTOR – EGYPT
Dr. Ahmed el-Lawah didn’t just treat patients in the Egyptian city of Port Said, he was a pillar of the community and a father figure to many. When patients coming to his medical laboratory couldn’t pay, he would test them for free. The 57-year-old taught pathology at the university, built mosques as acts of charity and had recently told his 13-year-old son that he hoped he would also become a doctor.
Read more about his impact on his family and community.