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D.C.’s Lost Year: How the pandemic upended lives and businesses across a region

A view of a desolate Pennsylvania Avenue NW on March 9, 2021. D.C. roads around downtown have emptied amid the pandemic. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

A little more than a year ago, we hugged and shook hands without fear. We laughed without masks covering our faces. We ate together, danced together, worked together and enjoyed each other’s company less than six feet apart. Then it all vanished.

D.C.’s Lost Year
A year after the coronavirus pandemic shut down the city, The Washington Post asked people to talk about how their lives have transformed. In their own voices, Washingtonians reflect on the region's Lost Places, Lost Jobs and Lost Lives.

As the coronavirus shut down the nation and its capital, jazz music silenced on U Street. Gone were the lines outside the 9:30 Club and the drinks afterward at American Ice Company. Neighborhood boutiques and restaurants emptied.

The pandemic replaced job security with automated responses from unemployment services, lines outside food banks and job applications. It robbed more than 50,000 jobs from D.C.

More than 19,000 people died of covid-19 in greater Washington alone in the last year, enough to nearly fill the Capital One Arena. They left behind ratty-looking sweaters still cherished, ungifted earrings and jars of cherries to top off Manhattans they never drank.

One year later, with an end to the pandemic in sight, Washingtonians reflect on the city’s Lost Places, Lost Jobs and Lost Lives. In doing so, they offer insight into what we hold close and what we have gained.

Chief Operating Officer for I.M.P., Donna Westmoreland, left, and Josh Markovitz of the radio station DC101 outside the 9:30 Club. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Lost Places

The financial turmoil triggered by the pandemic has rocked small businesses that have for years infused the nation’s capital with revenue and character. Opportunity Insights — a nonpartisan research and policy institute — reported that more than 43 percent of businesses in the city closed permanently or temporarily over the last year, while total small business revenue decreased by over 61 percent.

For much of the past year, plywood covered storefronts, and unemployment claims surged to record levels.

John Falcicchio, D.C.’s deputy mayor for planning and economic development, predicted that the road to recovery would be long and complicated.

“The revenue the businesses lost, the income that their employees lost — it’s gone forever. They will be working themselves out of a debt they amassed during the pandemic for a long time,” he said. “I know it sounds pessimistic, but it’s important for us to recognize that.”

Small business revenue remains

at a dramatic low — especially in

hotels and restaurants

Rolling seven-day average of seasonally-

adjusted change in revenue since January 2020 for all small businesses and those in leisure and hospitality in D.C.

0

-4

-10

−25%

Revenue down 61%

since Jan. 2020

-56

−50%

-76

−75%

-73

-89

-86

−100%

Jan.

2020

April

Oct.

March

2021

Small business revenue remains at a

dramatic low — especially in hotels and restaurants

Rolling seven-day average of seasonally-adjusted change in revenue since January 2020 for all small businesses and those in leisure and hospitality in D.C.

0

-4

-10

−25%

Revenue down

61% since

Jan. 2020

-56

−50%

-76

−75%

-73

-89

-86

−100%

Jan. 10,

2020

April 3

Oct. 21

March 3,

2021

Small business revenue remains at a dramatic low —

especially in hotels and restaurants

Rolling seven-day average of seasonally-adjusted change in revenue since January 2020

for all small businesses and those in leisure and hospitality in D.C.

0

4%

10%

−25%

Revenue down 61%

since Jan. 2020

56%

−50%

76%

−75%

73%

89%

86%

−100%

Jan. 10,

2020

April 3

Oct. 21

March 3,

2021

But in the cracks exposed and deepened by the pandemic, resilience flourished. Restaurateurs and entrepreneurs innovated with touchless service and products catered to life at home. The city launched “Streeteries,” allowed alcohol sold to-go and injected $155 million in grant funding into its small businesses.

“Small businesses have demonstrated a level of innovation and flexibility that should be an example of what government needs to do,” said D.C. Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5), who chairs the committee on business and economic development. “It’s propelled me to continue to work toward recovery and do so through a lens of racial equity.”

Below are stories of loss, sacrifice and resilience from business owners and the customers who have missed them.

Cinder BBQ

Neighborhood restaurant in Petworth

Customer Shawn Malhotra, 33, marketing strategist in the hospitality industry: It got to the point where the staff began to switch to my team’s game whenever they saw us walking into the restaurant. It was normally eight of us, all neighborhood friends, smashed around a large indoor table with discounted bourbon and beer and wings. One time we were sitting at a table against the window, and our friends saw us and joined the party. That’s the epitome of a neighborhood spot. We aren’t going there for fine dining and a white tablecloth. We are going there for ease, good conversation, casualness and just to feel comfortable. Cinder was the place for that.

Sundays before were an opportunity for a moment of joy before Monday scaries. They’ve become quieter, more independent. You don’t get the joy of being surrounded by friends being loud and obnoxious on the TV. Now it’s just me watching by my lonely self on the couch.

Matt Krimm, co-owner: It actually does feel like a long time ago. We put up a sign in our window that said, due to covid restrictions, we’ll be going to a carryout and delivery model only for the next couple of weeks. Well, a few weeks turned into what is going on 12 months, but the sign is still there.

Anyone who is still open and keeping people employed — to me, that is a success story. For many months, we were week-to-week. Then we got to every two-weeks-to-two-weeks. Then every three-weeks-to-three-weeks. Now we are on pretty firm footing. We’ve been fortunate not to have laid anyone off, and we are only down a little, less than 20 percent. Why? Well, a lot of that success is because D.C. allowed us to sell cocktails and bottles to-go.

When we opened, we were a barbecue and American whiskey bar. We had to figure out how to open a new restaurant again, but within the same space. I had a nice little selection of esoteric and hard-to-find whiskeys that people who still had jobs wanted to buy. Soon we were approached by single-barrel whiskey programs. We just keep trying to add new things. It’s trial and error, that’s what this time has been.

Madam’s Organ

Blues bar in Adams Morgan

Ben Eisendrath, 51, woodfire grill designer: Every Wednesday night, I wish I could go to Madam’s and eat wings and listen to Human Country Jukebox until they pause and wait for us to yell what we want them to play next. I love those nights when the last set is “[Friends In] Low Places” by Garth Brooks and everyone has had way too much and decides to be part of the spectacle together. Now on Wednesdays, I binge-watch some TV after work and go to sleep. It doesn’t even sound like me.

This is what I want people to understand: There is a huge difference between the Washington that people see from the outside and the Washington that we live in. It’s a very warm, small-town feel, except for the town is filled with amazingly interesting people from all over the world, and after working at night, they let down their hair at Madam’s. What is there to say? I miss those nights.

Bill Duggan, owner: The empty space has cost me between 10 and 12 thousand dollars a month. That is literally just to keep the water, the electric, the gas, the insurance and the mortgage. And I’m one of the people in an enviable position. I own the building and I do some side real estate investment development. Truthfully, there is easier money in real estate investment. But we will reopen, [because] I love it. I can’t imagine life without it.

Sometimes I am sitting at my neighbor’s having something to eat or drink, and I watch people stop by Madam’s. They tell their friends from out of town that we had great music. It’s extremely sad to see. Getting the vaccine myself, the relief that it’s given me, I think the only way we will be able to reopen is by requiring people to show an ID and a vaccine card. I feel the hope that we are going to be able to do that soon. It’s that stupid joke, that we are close to going back to the new abnormal.

Lauren Healy, left, and Sasha Carter pose for a portrait at the Red Derby. Lauren is a frequent customer, while Sasha is co-owner. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Red Derby

Bar in Petworth

Lauren Healy, 24, program management specialist at local university: My dad owned two bars in New York City, so when he passed away in 2017, it was hard for me to be in any bar for a while. But then I found the Red Derby. It had this smoky haze and atrocious but iconic ’70s music bumpin’. Immediately, I was like, “Oh, this is a place that will become important to me,” and it has.

When I turned 24, I knew I wanted to be on the Derby rooftop, socially distant, and giving my favorite bar some business during a tough time. Well, not even 30 minutes into sitting there with two other friends, Mama Derby and Ruby came upstairs with a massive cake and candles and had the whole bar singing “Happy Birthday” to me. I started to cry.

This last year has been incredibly difficult for my own mental health, just finishing grad school and watching my job prospects blown by the pandemic. I’ve also felt real dissonance with my family about covid and what they think it is. The Derby has been a family when I’ve felt like I didn’t have my own.

Lauren Healy, left, and Sasha Carter. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Sasha Carter, co-owner: I remember the first time Lauren came in during covid, she said, “You don’t understand how much I love the Derby. This is my most favorite place.” I was their waitress, and I nearly started tearing up at their table. Things are really difficult and really hard, and it’s awful. We are trying to focus on finding the joy and find the bright spots. That was a bright spot.

It hit us in our hearts and in our souls right away. The Tuesday after we closed, March 17, our general manager, who I’ve worked with for 20 years, he came down with a really high fever. His wife took him to the hospital, and they turned him away. On Wednesday, the fever went higher, and they took him to a different hospital. That Thursday, they intubated him and obviously said he had coronavirus. He was intubated for 28 days. He was in the hospital for 38 days. He was in an induced coma for 30 days. Of the group of people who he was intubated with, he was the only one to survive. He just got lucky.

How are we managing? We are scrappy, we are just getting by. We did get a PPP loan, we are very fortunate, and we’ve got some grants from D.C. But I mean our Friday nights are like bad Monday nights in before times. Our sales are down 80, 85 percent. We went from a staff of 30 to a staff of three. I am biting my nails insanely. My cuticles are a mess. But in my mind’s eye, we are going to make it. This place was my dream. I can’t think of anything else other than that.

Howard Deli

Neighborhood restaurant near Howard University

Rayceen Pendarvis, local radio personality: I don’t think people understand what Howard Deli means to the community. To see it go is like losing a relative. Folks who ran Howard Deli were not just the owners. You saw them at church, you saw them at the bus stop. They knew you by whose child you were. I was known as being one of Mary’s children. I wasn’t just Rayceen.

I was born at Freedmen’s Hospital, which is at the heart of Howard University. That is how much that area is ingrained in my being and my spirit. And Howard Deli was always there. It stood as a symbol of Black excellence and pride in our community. Everyone was welcome, no matter your color or your sexual orientation. Everyone had a right to walk through the doors of Howard Deli.

When small businesses close, we lose a part of ourselves. We lose what makes a city so rich in culture and pride. When that dies, a part of our spirit dies.

Pep Diaz, co-owner of Howard Deli: I still wake up like clockwork at the time we used to open — 6 a.m. It’s tough. I miss the morning camaraderie with the regular customers who got their coffee. And the students. They kept us young and hip to all the new things and the new music. They helped me work my phone.

We were behind on a lot of bills by November. And for a long time, we didn’t even know we were behind that much because my brother used to do the office part of the work. But he started forgetting things in April. At first it was just days of the week, but then it all started going downhill. We found out he’d had multiple strokes. He lost all identifications on his credit cards. He forgot his password to his computer. We didn’t even know if we were eligible for grants or anything.

Me and my brother owned the place since 1988. Everyone knew Kenny. He could always talk to you; he knew a lot of history and math. It was like he had the gift of God. I don’t know if we are going to come back or not. The people who own the building already have a sign up. It’s tough. I miss the students and the morning camaraderie with the regular customers who get their coffee. But you know what, I’ve been loving “The View” at 11 o’clock. I had never seen the show before, and I’ve just been loving it.

Jason Anderson, left, poses for a portrait with Anika Hobbs, owner of Nubian Hueman. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Nubian Hueman

Boutique in Anacostia

Jason Anderson, 46, artist: You could be walking in there to get some soap and wind up there for four hours talking about whatever is happening in the world. It’s not even like that’s a side function of the store. It seemed like it was one of its goals. That’s how much it happened.

Anika has always extended the space to the community in whatever capacity we need it, whether it’s business or personal. She goes above and beyond the typical business owners. That is why she is held in such high regard in our community. We know we can depend on her for real.

I got covid in the last week of November, and I thought my body had given out on me. I was making arrangements. I was writing my will. That’s how serious it was. Then I had three or four negative covid tests in a row and finally, I went back to the store. I had to, because I get at least a quarter of my daily essentials there, like soap, deodorant, shampoo, lotions, creams, underwear, socks. It felt great. There is healing energy in there.

Jason Anderson, left, is a customer at Anika Hobbs’s store. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Anika Hobbs, owner: Living in this space as a Black person, period, and as a woman, and then making the choice to put your entire livelihood into entrepreneurship, your mind is completely blown. And then it’s like, if I go out on the street, will I get killed? It’s so much. Every day is a win, I’ll say that, but it really has been very hard.

Before covid, I was feeling pretty optimistic. I was in a community that looked like me, and I felt like I had created a space for artists of color to see their own brands in a store. But then the D.C. store, which was our biggest revenue generator, that faucet was completely turned off, and it’s like your whole livelihood is at a standstill.

I’ve had to completely Rubik’s-cube my business. People used to come in and just hang out at my store for hours just to talk. Like Jason, I would see him at least a couple times a week. My mom knows him. I miss being able to hug my customers.

But I am appreciative of this time. I would have been very complacent in my business and left money on the table without building out a better online presence. Covid has forced me to think differently, personally and professionally. But I do miss when five people would be sitting on the sofa talking while I was trying to ring people up, that feeling of camaraderie.

American Ice Company

Bar in Shaw

Lizzie Glaser, 31, works at digital marketing agency: I had been in D.C. for maybe six months when I saw this guy hanging out with a couple of his friends at the bar. We had a brief encounter, but you know how these things go when you are drinking and fearless. So I left my number on a napkin for him, which I never do. We ended up going back to American Ice the next night and got their Swatchos Nachos, which are nachos made with pulled pork. Now we are engaged.

When I turned 30, we did a scavenger hunt, and one of the stops was to have a drink at American Ice. And then when we got engaged, it was the place we went to celebrate. The weekend before they closed, we went there as well, to have one more drink and an order of Swatchos Nachos.

Ian Hilton, owner: American Ice was one of the last places we were worried about. It’s the only building where we have a business and we actually own the property. You would expect the landlord would be easy to negotiate with because it’s you. But when it became clear that we were going to have a very small space available for people, we knew it wouldn’t be viable. American Ice has communal tables. It’s the type of place where a group of two sits down with a group of three, and two beers and an order of Swatchos later, you are a group of five. That’s what I love about it. By November, when there was another step back in terms of covid cases, it was clear we were going to have a problem.

I started to feel more optimistic when I went on a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, and saw that people have a lot of pent-up desire to get out. That coincided with a new administration coming in, one that has a really good chance of getting shots in people’s arms. It started to feel real that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.

We are hoping to have American Ice back open by the end of March. I think there will be a lot of enthusiasm. I mean, I haven’t wanted to party in a long time. I’m a 49-year-old man. My idea of raging is making it to 10 or 11 o’clock with some wine. But now, I’m ready to go out to a raging party.

National Portrait Gallery

Museum in Penn Quarter

Kristin Duquette, 29, federal government employee: The National Portrait Gallery is my spot. Before covid, I would go there almost every single weekend. I would bring tea, bring a book, bring my laptop and sit in the atrium and write or read. Looking back, I don’t think I realized all the different growth and relationships and things in my life I experienced in that one room in the museum. I remember reading different master’s theses of a program I really wanted to get into one weekend. For the next few weeks and then months, I went back to the atrium to write essays for the application. Now I’m in the program.

I really love and miss D.C. so much. When I made the decision to go home with my parents to North Carolina last March, I wrote in my journal that I would be there until the end of the month tops. That was cute of me to say. I have a form of muscular dystrophy, so potentially getting covid may be catastrophic for someone in my situation. Being in the woods is an incredible blessing, but I am anxiously awaiting for the day to get back to a museum.

Kim Sajet, National Portrait Gallery director: One of the greatest thrills is to watch people in the galleries and see them put their phones down and stand there, even with strangers, interacting and saying, “I really love this.” It helps me remember why I love museums so much. It’s this cross-generation sharing of not just history, but of where they were at the time. For younger kids, it may be, “Here, look — this is Beyoncé.” Older generations may say, “Here is Muhammad Ali, and I remember when he was the boxing champion of the world.” We are a museum about people, for people and by people. I miss that. I miss the people.

I feel like we dealt with the first shutdown really well. We got computers set up at home. The exhibitions department, the curatorial department, they started to move and postpone and cancel exhibits. But the second time we got the shutdown, this winter, it was harder. Even though we are continuing to put a lot of information online, people are getting tired of it. We are ready to be back.

Chief Operating Officer for I.M.P., Donna Westmoreland, left, poses for a portrait along with Josh Markovitz, right, of DC101 radio station outside the 9:30 Club.

9:30 Club

Music venue in Shaw

Josh Markovitz, 42, D.C. 101 on-air personality/producer: I fell in love with the 9:30 Club the first time I saw it, sometime in 2016 or 2017 when Green Day came to play. Nothing compares to that day. I am getting chills just thinking about it. It’s exactly what a music venue is supposed to be. It’s intimate, it’s dark, it’s old. For lack of a better term, it’s home. It’s what I want to feel like when I hear live rock music.

It’s like I don’t know what to do with myself anymore. I want to be packed in with my friends, close to everyone around me singing songs and being loud, and I don’t know if we will ever get to do that again. We can’t discover our new favorite band. We can’t make new friendships, whether it’s a bartender or a bouncer or the person next to you in the pit or up top in the VIP section that shares the love of the artist you are there to see.

Donna Westmoreland, COO of I.M.P.: If you would have asked me in March, I would have said we’d be back in two weeks. In May, we thought we were rescheduling shows for late summer. Now, here we are, and pretty much all the spring shows have been rescheduled for summer. Some summer shows have been rescheduled for fall, and some fall shows have been rescheduled for next year. It’s all over the place. We don’t have a plan.

I watch cheesy concert movies and get teary-eyed. I miss the moment when the lights go down and the band goes onstage. All the work we’ve done, all the work the band has done, it leads to that moment. Applying for grants and succeeding at getting a break on your rent is good and should be considered a victory, but it doesn’t feed your soul.

We are fortunate that we opened the Anthem in 2017 and it was the success that we had hoped it would be. Had we not had a couple of years of success under our belt, we wouldn’t have had reserves to rely on. And those reserves are waning, without a doubt. We still have no revenue and enormous overhead. We are not getting property tax breaks. We are still paying mortgages and utilities and insurance for all of our employees, both sides. But when there is a will, there’s a way. This time has proven that live music is about being there. And that can’t be replicated.

Kwaku Ansah-Twum, 67, of D.C., is a cabdriver who is barely getting by during the pandemic as demand for rides has diminished. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Lost Jobs

A year removed from the first reported coronavirus case in the region, nearly 180,000 people have filed unemployment claims in the District.

The unprecedented surge of layoffs illustrates how severely the virus has decimated D.C.’s workforce, with job losses impacting mostly the hospitality and service industries and disproportionately people of color. Families and individuals have drastically altered their lives to offset lost income. Small business owners have shuttered their shops. Adult children have moved back in with their parents. Others are dreading looming expirations to moratoriums on loans and mortgage payments.

Tens of thousands of jobs,

particularly in hotels and

restaurants, disappeared

once the pandemic set in

Year-over-year change in D.C. jobs and those

in leisure and hospitality

Jan.

2020

April

July

Oct.

1

1

1

0

0

0

-4

-6

-6

-6

-7

-7

-7

-7

-7

-8

−20%

-34

-36

-36

−40%

-38

-42

-45

-47

-55

−60%

-59

Tens of thousands of jobs, particularly in hotels and restaurants, disappeared

once the pandemic set in

Year-over-year change in D.C. jobs and those in

leisure and hospitality

Jan.

2020

March

May

July

Sept.

Nov.

1

1

1

0

0

0

-4

-6

-6

-6

-7

-7

-7

-7

-7

-8

−20%

There were 7% — about

58,000 — fewer jobs in

April 2020 than 2019.

-34

-36

-36

−40%

-38

-42

-45

-47

By Dec. there were still 36%

fewer leisure and hospitality jobs —

about 30,000 — than the prior year

-55

−60%

-59

Tens of thousands of jobs, particularly in hotels and

restaurants, disappeared once the pandemic set in

Year-over-year change in D.C. jobs and those in leisure and hospitality

Jan.

2020

Feb.

March

April

May

June

July

Aug.

Sept.

Oct.

Nov.

Dec.

1

1

1

0

0

0

-4

-6

-6

-6

-7

-7

-7

-7

-7

-8

There were 7% — about 58,000 — fewer jobs in

April 2020 than 2019.

−20%

-34

-36

-36

−40%

-38

-42

-45

By Dec. there were still 36%

fewer leisure and hospitality jobs —

about 30,000 — than the prior year

-47

-55

−60%

-59

For many, unemployment benefits have served as a tenuous lifeline. But those seeking claims have frequently run into roadblocks with the District’s Department of Employment Services, which has struggled to keep up with demand. Some workers who applied for benefits at the beginning of the pandemic say they are still awaiting funds.

D.C. workers whose livelihoods disappeared because of the pandemic share their stories of loss and survival.

DeVoughn Perry, 35, in her living room with her three children, from left: Addyson Wallace, 3, Ireland Wallace, 1, and Kameron Wallace, 2. She lost her job at Georgetown University Hotel last year. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

‘How are you going to do this today?’

DeVoughn Perry, 35, former sales manager for Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center

I was in the property management world before going back to Georgetown — I was working at Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center from 2011 to 2014. I ended up having my first baby in 2017, then another one in 2018 and then in 2019. After I had my youngest baby, I had a friend that still worked at Georgetown, and the opportunity presented itself to go back.

I went back as a sales manager in October [2019], and everything was fine. I handled any contracts that came in that were government contracts — corporate affiliated. Next thing you know, March comes, and we’re trying to figure out why we’re starting to cancel everything left and right.

I think we all tried to remain hopeful. But with no bookings coming in and everyone canceling, we lost so much money we knew what was coming down the pipe. As they started talking about the first round of furloughs, I said: “Okay, so this is really getting real.” My last paycheck was July 2nd, and I filed for unemployment that same day. But I did not receive it until the end of August. In between that time, I was just able to hold our heads above water.

But of course, we have bills, we have Pampers, we have formula and have all this stuff to do. Their dad is in their life big time. He works full time, but he’s a plumber going in and out of people’s homes every single day. Early in the pandemic, that was stopped because they weren’t really allowing people in their homes. I did have to apply for assistance, for food stamps and things like that, because I needed to pay for food for our children.

When it gets down to it, you do get a little, you know, you get stressed out. I’m trying to keep my head up. I’m trying to be positive about this. I have babies — other people have babies as well — but I’m just looking at myself at this point, and it’s hard.

I’ve had times where it’s like literally go in the bathroom, cry, and you come back out and say, “How are you going to do this today?” Then there’s the complete change of becoming a stay-at-home mom that I didn’t expect. Having little ones in the background while on the phone has become my life.

I’ve reached out to people that I know that were in property management, but it’s been kind of rough with people not wanting to hire. I still haven’t been offered anything at this point. And I’m kind of nervous about sending them to day care, to be honest. At least until they get a hold on covid.

One good thing that came out of this is I did start an LLC for my own property management company. It’s all in the beginning stages, like I literally launched January 11, but this is something that kind of pushed me to do other things. Yes, being a mom has been a lot, but during those times my baby’s asleep, I’m on the computer trying to figure out what I can try to do to get some income, eventually — and even when I do go back to work, make money in my sleep.

Because I never want to be in this again. Your savings only can last for so long.

John Stark, 38, is a former head chef who lost his job in March of last year. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

‘To own it’

John Stark, 38, former head chef at Hawk ’n’ Dove restaurant

I’ve been a chef for probably about five years and in the kitchen for more than 15 years. I’ve never been to school, just worked my way up and learned from great chefs that I’ve worked with. I’m originally from Miami, Fla., but the District is where I started my career professionally.

I expected the pandemic to be bad. But being a chef, I thought I had a secure job because that’s what the owners promised me. I was working at the Hawk ’n’ Dove for a year and a half and some change. It shut down temporarily in March. When I tried to reapply, when I tried to go back, the owner told me I wasn’t needed.

I’ve applied to more than 50 jobs since I lost my position in May. These are cooking jobs, head chef jobs. I’ve even tried to go the opposite route and not do anything with restaurants or cooking and just try to start over. Smaller things, like grocery stores. I’ve been on a lot of job corps websites and things like that. I just get overlooked, I guess. Either overqualified or underqualified.

I’ve been collecting unemployment, and that’s been off and on. I went three months without unemployment because my payment ran out. I think at the beginning everybody was overwhelmed, and I don’t think the government was set up for it.

I do use food stamps. I eat a lot of ramen. As a chef, you pick up a lot of ways to cook at home, but I’ve invented a lot of new things with ramen. I let my dad deal with my bank account and make sure my bills are paid on time. When it’s in his hands, I don’t spend on frivolous things. This is just not a time for me to be spending frivolously.

One thing I think everybody can say is that they have gone through a personal change during the pandemic. I have downtime to make different choices. The struggles I’m going through couldn’t even compare to the struggles this whole country is going through. So at the end of the day, I just try to keep a smile on my face.

What else have I changed? I changed me. I’ve always wanted to work on myself and become a better person. I cook food for people on my floor because I live in an apartment building. My neighbor, she’s old but I cook for her anyway because she’s always hungry and she smells my food when she comes out the door.

But my passion is not cooking. Cooking is a great thing that I love to do, don’t get me wrong, it’s kept me busy for over 15 years. The whole restaurant thing is fascinating to me. But I’ve come to an agreement with myself that I don’t want to work for anyone.

And if that means I have to restart my life and start over from the beginning and doing the cooking thing on the side, that’s what I’m going to do. But at the end of the day, there’s a different end goal — and that’s to own it.

Kwaku Ansah-Twum worries about how to keep food on his family’s plate each day, let alone send his daughter, an excellent student, off to college. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

‘Keep hope alive’

Kwaku Ansah-Twum, 67, worked for a computer company before retiring.

I bought my own cab when I retired in 2018. Because of covid-19 and everything that is going on in D.C., you are unable to find anybody on the streets hailing a cab like it used to be. Now, you have to rent a radio from a company like DC Yellow Cab. It’s about $75 per week. That’s why the majority of cabdrivers in D.C. have parked their cars — they can’t afford to pay $300 a month just for a radio.

Sometimes I go out the whole day and it’s almost zero. Nobody calls you. Sometimes you’re lucky. Last week, I went all the way to Bowie, and that alone was able to wipe off the $75 I pay the company for the radio. But most weeks I don’t even pass that input.

I’ve driven a cab in D.C. since 1984. My gross for the week went down, like, 60 percent when Uber and Lyft and all those other [ride-hailing] apps began. When corona came, that made it even worse. Now? It’s 80 percent lost revenue. Easily.

Even though we do have Uber, people are more comfortable with taxis because some Uber drivers have no clue where they’re going in the District. If you give me an address in D.C., I could even tell you the color of the building you are going to. Business was starting to come back until this whole thing started, then everything went down again.

It’s like rolling the dice — you don’t know what you’re going to get tomorrow. One week, I’ll get a trip that takes me out to Bowie; the following week, you can go the whole day and come home literally empty-handed. In January 2020, I brought home $1,714. October, $772, November, $50.

My friends who drive cabs have all parked their cars. Luckily for them, they live in Maryland, and some in Virginia. So when they file for unemployment, they get enough money. But in D.C., if you’re self-employed like me, they give you $149 a week.

You have to dive deep to stay afloat, especially when you have a daughter who is probably going to an Ivy League school. My daughter is a very high-achieving girl, and she joined me from Africa just two years ago. She had done so well in school, we applied to School Without Walls. She did her 12th grade over there, and she applied to a whole bunch of Ivy League schools. Now we’re waiting for the decision.

Right now, I’m dipping into the little savings I had before I retired. There are so many things that give you sleepless nights. When you look at what is ahead of you, in terms of rent, in terms of putting food on the table. I wake up every morning now at 5 o’clock because I’m thinking about, when is the next meal? Where is it coming from? And you have to save every little penny that you can in case she doesn’t get a full scholarship.

This week, I didn’t get my little money coming in from the D.C. government. I tried to call the D.C. unemployment services, but a machine tells you, “please call again.” I can’t get any human being to talk.

I applied for a small business loan at the beginning of the pandemic and got denied. What can we do? Just keep living. That’s all we can do. It’s like Jesse Jackson said, “Keep hope alive.”

Francisco Bautista, 55, lost his job at the Omni Shoreham, where he had worked for 32 years. He has been unemployed for the last year, causing great stress and depression. He is pictured outside his home in Silver Spring, Md., with his youngest son, Angel Bautista, 16. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

‘Looking through the window’

Francisco Bautista, 55, former waiter at the Omni Shoreham Hotel

The Omni Shoreham was a great place to work, a family place. I started in April 1989. . . . I was doing well. I had savings. But when you make decent money and it turns into a quarter of what you normally make weekly, it doesn’t work. Your bills are still growing, but your money is diminishing. I’ve been laid off since March 7th, 2020. My insurance expired March 31st, 2020. I haven’t been unemployed for this long since I started working two days after I came to this country in 1983. I was 18.

Me and my wife and my son, we haven’t been able to go outside for a long time because I’m afraid to get sick. I’m a 55-year-old man. I’m not a young chicken. He’s a teenager, and he hasn’t gone back to school. I tell him not to go outside. It’s like “be careful” are the only words I know how to say for him anymore.

The type of job I know how to do, you can’t find them anymore. I work for the hotel industry. All those jobs are gone. We are all laid off. Thousands and thousands of people haven’t stepped back into the job market for more than a year. I happen to be one of those who suffered the consequences of all of this.

I’ve lost a lot of hair. I have a lot of nightmares. The fear from the virus plus the economic fear, it’s destroyed me. And now I’m on the last extension of unemployment. I don’t know how I’m going to make a living. I don’t know how I’m going to eat. I’m just watching the news and looking through the window.

I want things to get better. I want people to go back to work, I want schools to reopen. Hopefully this stimulus package will have something for people like me, someone whose family came to this country and has been working so hard to contribute and yet ended up without insurance. But I’m running out of hope.

Marsha Johnson, 56, lost her job in IT last year. Her current economic situation is untenable, as she has loans to pay. She is pictured at her home in Southeast Washington. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

‘I’m still glad that I moved here’

Marsha Johnson, 56, former IT project manager from Texas

I finally got a job the day after Labor Day. But I’m still making half of what I used to make.

It’s between a $50,000-60,000 per year difference. So I’m still struggling. Very much so. I’m thankful that I have a job now, but I have to find something quickly to replace the salary that I was making, or I really don’t know what I’m going to do.

I’m incredibly thankful for the forbearance of my mortgage. I have to pay my daughter’s school loan. She went to Howard, and my son went to Prairie View. So I have an incredible school loan balance, and I was able to put that on forbearance as well. Those are my two largest bills, and not having to pay those right now is the only way I was able to survive.

If I didn’t have those things, I can’t imagine. I guess I’d be homeless. The forbearance on my mortgage is ending in the next couple of months, and . . . I just don’t know. Then I have to pay back the loans again.

When I was moving my daughter back and forth from Dallas, I fell in love with the District so I just asked my job, a commercial real estate company, if I could work from here.

I got laid off from there at the beginning of 2019 — they wanted to change focus, apparently — and I’ve lost a few jobs since then. I had to try to get a job here, but so many IT jobs require high levels of clearance, and I don’t have that kind of background. But I managed to get a government contract job, which so many people have in D.C. Then I got laid off from that.

I got another job quickly as another government contractor — these are all project management, business analyst type jobs — they ended up losing their contract, so I lost that job in September 2019. I managed to get yet another job with a government agency. Then covid started in March 2020, and I lost that job too.

When I was growing up, I wanted to be a doctor. I got my undergraduate degree in biology but ended up not going down that path. I got my MBA in accounting instead. I did that for a few years. Then at one company where I worked, I became very adept at the IT system they used, and became like a subject matter expert. The IT department asked me to move into their group and support financial systems. I stayed in IT. The rest is history.

To be pushed into this whirlwind of having to look for a new job every few months has been extremely stressful. I was applying to 10, 20 jobs every day. I must’ve applied to hundreds — it had to be hundreds. Project manager or business analyst positions. Things I’m qualified for and things that I could do in my sleep, but I wasn’t even getting called for an interview. I don’t know what the issue was.

And I still need to replace the salary I had before. So it’s very stressful.

But I love D.C., and I’m still glad I moved here. My mom said the other day, “You should’ve never left Dallas.” But I didn’t really like Dallas at all. I’m from Chicago; I lived in Dallas for 30 years and almost never warmed to it in all that time. And the District is so much more like Chicago, and in some ways, it’s better.

I just love it here. So no matter what I’m going through, I’m really, really glad that I moved here.

Susan Cooper's father Patrick Ellis died of covid-19 in July 2020. One of the things she keeps as a reminder of her father is a pencil cup of Popsicle sticks she made for him when she was a child. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Lost Lives

Death and illness have swallowed the greater Washington region since the first coronavirus cases were reported in early March of last year. More than 19,000 people have died. More than 1 million infections have been reported.

At first, the virus affected travelers from overseas and out of state. Then it ravaged elder-care communities and front-line workers, many of whom were Black and Latino. By late spring, while disparities remained, the virus had torn through every ward, and nearly every city and every town in the region. By late December, more than 1 per 1,000 Black people in the region had died of covid-19. The holidays only wrought more devastation. After months of isolation and social distancing, yearnings to gather and celebrate later generated record levels of death and infection.

Those we have lost to the coronavirus in the District, Maryland and Virginia

More than one in every thousand

people has lost a life due to the

coronavirus — with a much

higher rate among Black people

Number of deaths due to the coronavirus per

1,000 people for D.C., Maryland and Virginia

Black

White

Latino

Asian

1.56

1.5 lives

lost per

1,000 people

By Dec. 18 more than

1 per 1,000 Black people

had died due to covid.

1.18

1.03

1

0.68

0.5

Deaths among White people

began to rapidly accelerate

around Thanksgiving.

0

July

2020

Sept.

Nov.

Jan.

2021

March

More than one in every thousand has

lost a life due to the coronavirus — with

a much higher rate among Black people

Number of deaths due to the coronavirus per 1,000 people for D.C., Maryland and Virginia

Black

White

Latino

Asian

1.56

1.5 lives

lost per

By Dec. 18 more than 1 per 1,000

Black people had died due to covid.

White and Latinos wouldn’t reach

that level until months later.

1,000 people

1.18

1.03

1

0.68

0.5

Deaths among White people

began to rapidly accelerate

around Thanksgiving.

0

July

2020

Sept.

Nov.

Jan.

2021

March

More than one in every thousand people has lost a life due to the coronavirus — with a much higher rate

among Black people

Number of deaths due to the coronavirus per 1,000 people for D.C., Maryland and Virginia

1.56 Black

lives lost per

1,000 people

By Dec. 18 more than 1 per 1,000

Black people had died due to covid.

White and Latinos wouldn’t reach

that level until months later.

1.5 lives

lost per

1,000 people

1.18

White

1.03

Latino

1

0.68

Asian

0.56

0.5

0.41

0.27

Deaths among White

people began to rapidly

accelerate around Thanksgiving.

0.23

0

July

2020

Sept.

Nov.

Jan.

2021

March

Hope is on the horizon. The District, Maryland and Virginia have together administered more than 133 million doses of coronavirus vaccines. Both death and infection rates began to decline steadily in early February.

But the staggering losses of life have forever changed the region. Their memories remain in the people who loved them and the objects that they have held onto as reminders of lives well-lived.

Jerry Manley, 58, died of covid-19 in Calvert County, Md., on March 31, 2020. His wife saved a polar bear figurine as a reminder of his life. His dog, Brooks, is in the background. (Family photo)

Jerry Manley, 58

Calvert County, Md., March 31, 2020

Valerie Manley, on her husband, a police officer who dedicated his free time to raising money for the local Special Olympics: We were recently given a white polar bear from the Special Olympics in honor of all the work Jerry did for them. His love of Bud Light beer (and Bud Light only!) led to the creation of a fundraiser in his memory called “The Bud Light Challenge,” which raised more than $55,000 for the Special Olympics. Jerry was also instrumental in the Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge into Chesapeake Bay every January to raise money for the Special Olympics. The polar bear will always be a reminder to us of how Jerry gave back, not only to the kids that he loved at the Plunge and other events, but the children at Children’s National Medical Center, the EVAN Foundation and other programs. They were all dear to his heart, and he was always willing to help anyone who needed it. The polar bear will always be a loving reminder to all of us of his unending kindness, love and generosity. —Paul Duggan

Read more about Jerry Manley

Nicky Leake died of covid-19 on April 30, 2020 in Charles County, Md. Her family has held on to a sweatsuit and makeup bag as keepsakes of her life. (Family photo)

Nicky Leake, 45

Charles County, Md., April 30, 2020

Shanta Leake-Cherry, on her sister, who was one of three family members lost to covid: I have several clothes that belonged to my sister. One piece in particular is a sweatsuit made by Victoria’s Secret Pink. Nicky used to wear the sweatsuit a lot, and now I wear it all the time. It’s very comfy, and every time I wear the sweatsuit, I feel like she’s close to my heart. Her daughter, Eniah, who’s 18, misses her mom so much. She also has a keepsake: her mom’s Sephora makeup bag. It’s black and white [with] polka dots, and she carries it wherever she goes. Eniah says it reminds her of her mom, because her mom never went anywhere without it. She often hears her mom’s voice saying, “Niah, can you hand me my makeup bag?” As she carries the bag daily, her mom’s voice has become a constant reminder that she hears replaying in her mind. —Paul Duggan

Read more about Nicky Leake

Margaret Locklear Lerner, 97, died of covid-19 in Montgomery Village, Md. on May 14, 2020. Her daughter distributed 20 Native American dolls to her family across the country to keep her memory alive. (Adele Williams)

Margaret Locklear Lerner, 97

Montgomery Village, Md., May 14, 2020

Cindy Williams, on her mother, who was a role model in the Lumbee Indian community: My mom was from a Native American heritage, and over the past 20, maybe 30 years, she started collecting Native American dolls. She liked that they were celebrating her heritage, even though it wasn’t her direct tribe, and that they symbolized strength and beauty and courageousness. She had all of those things.

I was trying to figure out what to do with them, these 30 or 40 dolls. We ended up keeping about 10 in a box. I just couldn’t part with them. But the others, we sent to one of my cousins in North Carolina, in the town where my mom is from, and she distributed them to different family members. It was very meaningful for them to get one of her dolls. Even my male cousin in his 60s sent a picture with this little doll.

Covid is still a horrible thing, and I’m angry that it’s what took my mom. But she was 97 years old, and I feel like she was communicating to me that she had a great life and was okay moving on. When I get really sad, I think about that. —Emily Davies

Read more about Margaret Locklear Lerner

Iraj Askarinam, 76, died of covid-19 in Washington, D.C., on June 2, 2020. One of his daughters has saved a pile of T-shirts from the restaurants he owned and ran for decades. (Family photo)

Iraj Askarinam, 76

Northwest Washington, D.C., June 2, 2020

Rachel Askarinam Wagner, on her father, who owned Spaghetti Garden and other restaurants in D.C.: It’s been hard. . . . There have been sad moments and moments where you realize life still goes on. There are still the responsibilities of children to feed and work for me. . . . You still have to get your stuff done. Then there are moments you have and you sit down and think, “I really miss him. I wish I could call him up.”

It is really hard on the weekends. That’s when we had time together. We’d go to the park and have ice cream outings with the kids. I miss the Saturday mornings the most. I miss that we had our time together. The kids would play at the park and we’d sit on a bench and watch. It was easy going. . . . You had that quiet time together. We did that always — together.

I pulled all of his work shirts out of the closets, washed them and folded them. I’m going to make them into a quilt or pillow for the kids. I look at them every day in my bedroom. I think, ‘I need to do something with these.’ These T-shirts show he was working hard and getting dirty. That’s just who he was. He didn’t have a lot of material things. His work was his legacy. He was proud of what he accomplished. He would wear them and people would say, “Hey, Spaghetti Garden! I know that place!” He’d say, “Come by.”

He was always very proud of all he’d done in his life. —Dana Hedgpeth

Read more about Iraj Askarinam

Patrick Ellis, 77, died of complications from covid-19 in Annapolis on July 16, 2020. For decades, he used a popsicle-stick pencil holder his daughter Susan made at nursery school, decorated with an emblem of a seal playing with a ball. (Family photo)

Patrick Ellis, 77

Churchton, Md., July 16, 2020

Susan Cooper, on her father, a local radio personality: I was probably 3 when I made this at nursery school, and my father used it until he passed. I don’t know how it held up — there’s only one Popsicle stick missing, and I have a pair of his reading glasses in it now. Once he set up his studio in his new home, the pencil holder was sitting right in front of his mic. His last three radio shows he was able to broadcast from home; his Sunday morning gospel show was just synonymous with Sunday morning WHUR. Every week he would get requests for music and shout-outs: birthdays, anniversaries, church and death announcements, which he kept in a folder and annotated. The programming of his show was like a puzzle.

I listen to WHUR as soon as I start my day, until it’s time for me to go sleep, but I haven’t been able to listen on Sunday mornings since he passed. Sometimes I still find myself sitting in disbelief. A lot of it has to do with the suddenness of it, how quickly he became ill. And then sometimes I feel like, okay, I’ve accepted it. I’m handling it. This is a part of life, and I’m handling it. —Harrison Smith

Read more about Patrick Ellis

Judge Stephen F. Williams in the green sweater that his wife has held onto as a memento since his death. (Family photo)

Stephen F. Williams, 83

Washington, D.C., Aug. 7, 2020

Faith Williams, on her husband, who served on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for more than three decades: “It’s an old [sweater] that he used to wear quite a lot that people, including his kids, thought was quite ratty-looking. But I like it. It’s soft, and it reminds me of him. So I wear his old sweater to sleep in a lot. It’s quite a nice sweater, really. It’s not that old, and it’s green. It’s probably not the color I would have picked. But I didn’t pick it. It’s Orvis. It feels like wool to me. . .[but] it’s cotton silk and cashmere. Mostly cotton, then silk and cashmere, and it’s sort of a grassy green. I don’t know he how he got it; he probably ordered it. This sweater was his favorite sweater. It reminds me of him.” —Fredrick Kunkle

Read more about Stephen F. Williams

Ronnie Hogue Sr., 69, died of covid-19 in Fort Washington, Md., on Sept. 18, 2020. His daughter Rennese Hogue only has one plant in her home, a philodendron, that her father gave her that she takes pride in keeping alive. (Family photo)

Ronnie Hogue Sr., 69

Fort Washington, Md. Sept. 18, 2020

Rennese Hogue, on her father, the first African American to receive a full athletic scholarship to the University of Georgia: When the cold weather started to come in around December, the plant started to wilt and turn yellow and brown. It almost brought me to tears when I thought I killed the plant my dad gave me. I gave the plant a nice trim, moved it to my living room and it seemed to perk it right back up. Originally when my father gave it to me in late 2019, I was just holding it for him. After he moved and got settled, he thought it looked better at my place and said I could use the greenery. I plan to replant it in the spring. I look at it and I think of his spirit. It’s the only plant I have in my house, but it’s one I will try and keep alive and eventually thriving. —Amber Ferguson

Read more about Ronnie Hogue Sr.

A poster signed by co-workers for Don Brooks, who worked at the Carnegie Institution for Science for over half a century. (Family photo)

Don Brooks, 75

Washington, D.C., Oct. 24, 2020

Gloria Brooks, on her husband, who worked at the Carnegie Institution for Science for more than 50 years: I haven’t packed anything — all of his tools, his golf clubs, everything is here. I’m going to keep his pictures, a whole lot of pictures. His engineer’s license, that’s important to me. He was my life; he was the love of my life. His 50th anniversary, he got a calendar hanging on the wall that everybody on the job signed; I’m keeping that. It brings out memories of him, his years at the job and his years with me. He loved his work so much.

It’s been hard; some days good, some days bad. I have my days — I’ve got a picture of him in the living room, he looks like he’s smiling. My grandson, he’s one year old, sometimes he says, “Where’s Granddad? Granddad is outside,” because he was always doing work outside. But when I say “No, he’s not outside,” he says, “Granddad’s in heaven.” Everybody misses him, but I don’t think anybody misses him more than I do.

We did a little celebration with close family members — he wouldn’t want us to stay around here and grieve. He was so into family life, we just did a little bit of Thanksgiving and a little bit of Christmas. But we didn’t do gifts, we didn’t see neighbors like we usually do. Christmastime we used to have a house full of people and play games and he was the joker of the games, he had everybody laughing during the holidays — that’s a good memory.

He got into the fish, so we got a 65-gallon fish tank with four Oscars. He got them a little before he passed; they were babies. The grandchildren are taking care of them now, because they know that’s what he loved so well. —Rachel Weiner

Read more about Don Brooks

Elsi Mabelicia Campos, 60, of Alexandria, Va., died of covid-19 on Nov. 30, 2020. Before she died, she purchased a pair of earrings for her daughter, Yuri Campos. (Family photo)

Elsi Mabelicia Campos, 60

Alexandria, Va., Nov. 30, 202

Yuri Campos, on her mother, who worked at the Pew Charitable Trusts building in downtown D.C.: My mom, she was always buying little things that reminded her of people. Before she was laid off, she gave a present to one of her co-workers, Christel — a tote where she could carry books. She called Christel and was like, “Hey, remember the tote I gave you? I forgot to take out this little bag, and it was a little box of earrings I had for my daughter.” She said, “Don’t worry, I’ll get them when I get a chance.” But they didn’t get a chance.

When she found out my mom passed away, Christel remembered she had my earrings. She decided to come and give them to me. She said, “These belong to you. They’re from your mom.” I just started crying. I didn’t know what to say. I was like, wow, she thought about me. It’s kind of like a reminder: “Don’t worry, I have your back.”

It’s been really hard. I had to get a therapist because I’m dealing with a lot. I have to just remind myself — life has to continue.

This past Sunday, I dedicated a mass to her. I sang her an Ave Maria. And I wore the earrings. —Samantha Schmidt

Read more about Elsi Mabelicia Campos

Richard S. Madaleno Sr., 78, died of covid-19 in Montgomery County, Md., on Dec. 12, 2020. His family has saved a jar of maraschino cherries as a reminder of his sense of humor and his favorite cocktail: a Manhattan topped with two maraschino cherries. (Family photo)

Richard Madaleno Sr., 78

Bethesda, Md., Dec. 12, 2020

Richard Madaleno Jr., on his father, a Navy veteran who owned a construction management company: My dad had such a great sense of humor. He’d often joke that for his final resting place we could put his ashes in a giant jar of maraschino cherries and drop him off at the Jack Daniels distillery.

I bought a jar of cherries while shopping for Thanksgiving dinner. I wanted to be ready with my dad’s favorite drink when my parents arrived. A Manhattan on the rocks, with Jack Daniels, sweet vermouth, no bitters and two maraschino cherries.

My dad loved having a Manhattan in his hand, whether we were out to dinner, spending time together for the holidays or watching a Sunday football game.

The jar sits on my kitchen counter. When I look at it I’m reminded of loss — my parents never made it over that day because they got sick the weekend before — but I’m also reminded of the happy times. I couldn’t be there with him in the end, I couldn’t hold his hand. But until that moment, there was a strong degree of closeness and engagement between us. He knew who I was. I knew who he was. We loved each other, and we celebrated our lives together. —Ovetta Wiggins

Read more about Richard S. Madaleno Sr.

Blanca Kling, 68, died of complications from covid-19 on Jan. 27 in Prince George’s County. Kling was known for organizing prayer chains and staying up late praying for family, friends and strangers dealing with illness or loss. (Family photo)

Blanca Kling, 68

Beltsville, Md., Jan. 27, 2021

Lizzie Kling, on her mother, who helped thousands of crime victims in Montgomery County: Every morning when mom woke up, she would turn on the lamp that shone above her altar. I have not turned her altar light off since the first night she went to the hospital. I leave it on for her, because I know how much it meant to her, and it helps me feel close to her, too.

In early September 2020, her grandson Matias, my nephew, was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, at a shy and tiny 8 months old. After Mati’s diagnoses, she added three new Virgen Mysticas to her altar, the virgin she told me she prayed most often to for Mati’s healing and recovery.

Above her altar hangs a picture of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus that belonged to her grandma, a painting we brought back from Bolivia after our last trip. It is a painting that she said she loved as a little girl.

While my mom was in the hospital, I began to pray to the Virgen Mysticas. There are three roses on the Virgen Mystica; a red rose that symbolizes sacrifice, a gold rose that symbolizes penance, and a white rose, la rosa Blanca, that symbolizes the spirit of prayer. This is her, she is my rosa Blanca. Her spirit of prayer took me by the hand when she was sick in the hospital and provided me with comfort in those dark days.

I was [recently] digging through an old box of my high school stuff, and without rhyme or reason, a Post-it note of hers appeared. On it, she wrote, “Mi presencia está contigo y te dare descanso,” which in English I interpret as, “My presence is with you and I will give you peace.”

I fell to my knees with tears welling in my eyes, I couldn’t have asked my mom for more comforting words. I have placed that note on her altar and it has brought me an incredible amount of peace, because I truly feel that she will always be present in my life. —Luz Lazo

Read more about Blanca Kling

Hershel Shanks, 90, died of covid-19 in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 5, 2021. His family saved some of his red Paper Mate pens as a reminder of his life. (Family photo)

Hershel Shanks, 90

Washington, D.C., Feb. 5, 2021

Elizabeth Shanks Alexander, on her father, a Washington lawyer who became a force in biblical archaeology: As long as I’ve been compos mentis, I’ve thought of him with the red pen. They were all over the house. He bought them by the dozen and usually kept one in his breast pocket, because you never know when you need to edit. At the height of his professional career, he was editing four magazines, including Biblical Archaeology Review. He had this capacity to take arcane technical stuff and make it into an adventure story. I’m a scholar in an adjacent field, and when I finished the last pages of my second book, I emailed him a copy saying, “I won’t feel it’s done until it has seen the red ink of Hershel’s pen.”

There’s no doubt about it, having somebody pass during the pandemic is excruciatingly painful. Not to be able to hug, to get physical solace. I’m at peace, ultimately. In a strange way, I feel swept up by history. There’s a way in which the moment that he passed, I was now able to see his life as a whole. And putting it in the context of the pandemic, of history, allows me to hold the pain in a broader context. —Harrison Smith

Read more about Hershel Shanks

Hershel Shanks with one of his trademark red pens in his breast pocket. (Family photo)

Photo editing by Mark Miller. Graphics by Kate Rabinowitz. Design by J.C. Reed and Emily Wright. Copy editing by Ryan Romano. Editing by Lynh Bui.

Data on small business revenue from Opportunity Insights. Job losses data available through the Labor Department. Lives lost numbers are from the D.C., Maryland and Virginia Departments of Health.

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