In a matter of months, almost 100,000 lives have been lost to coronavirus in the United States – nearly triple that of any other country.
America never wanted to lead the world this way. The unfathomable milestone is one of this country’s most tragic and indelible.
Each death took away unique experiences and stories: some well told; most unsung.
People have died in every state and from every walk of life.
Leilani Jordan was a 27-year-old supermarket worker who put her heart and soul into her job. Coronavirus only strengthened her resolve to help those in need.
Her mum, Zenobia Shepherd, says her daughter, who loved butterflies, had an inbuilt instinct to help people.
“She said to me, ‘Mommy, nobody is showing up for work. I have to help the senior citizens, the elderlies’.”
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Ms Shepherd added: “Many of them can barely walk – leaning over shopping carts. And although (Leilani) had her own disabilities, she would go out of her way to help them to get and find what they needed.
“Because she knew sign language she could even talk to and help those that could not talk. So she loved helping and being needed by others.”
Leilani kept going until the day she could no longer breathe. Unlike the thousands robbed of proper goodbyes, Leilani was in her mother’s arms when she passed away.
“I would do anything in this world if I could have my baby back,” Ms Shepherd said.
“My butterfly is gone. She’s flown away to heaven. I have to wait until my time to go see her.”
She added: “I was there when she went to CCU. She took her last breath in my arms. My hands, my last touch, touching her body, as it was warm… It was her last breath.”
Ms Shepherd is now living on memories of her daughter’s singing, her love of the beach and all things purple.
She has some comfort in Leilani’s support dog and best friend, Angel, who now sleeps at the front door, waiting for Leilani to return.
Ms Shepherd has two young daughters who make a video for their sister each day – telling her how much they love her.
Deaths in America have been disproportionately high in black communities, revealing long standing health and socio-economic disparities.
Ms Shepherd is now focusing her grief on the urgent need for protections for essential workers like her daughter.
“I want to help other people that aren’t being helped,” she said. “The situation is we’ve got to do a better job, a better job of protecting – protecting and keeping them safe.”
After Leilani’s death, she received her daughter’s final paycheck in the post. The amount was a gut punch: $20.63.
“I think that families, people that have certain front line jobs need to get paid more money,” she said. “They need to have bonuses during this time.”
Like every American, Ms Shepherd is desperate for this situation to end: “I wish this whole thing would go away. Just go to space and leave us alone.
“If only (we) could have been ahead of it a little bit. The death toll may not have been so high and growing.”
As the daughter of a military family, Leilani shares her final resting place with fallen heroes in Arlington National Cemetery.
Coronavirus has now claimed more American lives than the Vietnam, Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.
Those lives lost in past battles are marked by the seemingly endless symmetry of white headstones. Ms Shepherd knows that is where she will come on every occasion Leilani loved so much: Christmas and Halloween, and each birthday she would have celebrated with her usual joy.
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So much death has largely been unseen. For a nation living in isolation it is perhaps harder to share a collective sense of grief – even harder to tune out of the ongoing political noise of this crisis.
But make no mistake: America is engulfed in tragedy, and with no cure or vaccine, this is not the end.