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We were the first epicenter of COVID-19 in the United States.

And from March through May, New York and New Jersey reeled, as we lost some of the most hard-working, selfless and generous souls among us in the first wave of this novel coronavirus.

They were transit workers, school teachers, police officers, maintenance men and priests.

They were nurses, grandmas, a firefighter’s baby girl, doctors and EMTs.

They were prisoners and detainees, locked behind bars with very little to protect them from an invisible killer.

More than 25,000 people died from the virus in New York City alone in 2020.

In April, burials were up 200 percent from the same month in 2019.

We watched in horror, as refrigerated trailers turned up behind hospitals to serve as temporary morgues–and rows of plain, wooden caskets were placed in deep graves on Hart Island.

In the state of New Jersey, the number of COVID-19 dead for 2020 approached 17,000 on this New Year’s Eve.

Through it all, PIX11 brought you the faces of the pandemic: the very human stories of those battling a lethal bug doctors initially didn’t know much about. Patients and their families were desperate for experimental treatments and a shot at survival.

We would learn the Sars CoV2 virus was not just capable of decimating our respiratory systems; it could invade the rest of our body too, causing dangerous inflammation and blood clots.

From a single case in January in Washington State, the United States is quickly nearing a tally of 20 million infections, as we get ready to ring in a new year.

But amidst all the pain, we have celebrated great stories of survival.

New York State court officer, Sergeant Darrell Cross, returned home in June, after 72 days fighting the virus in the hospital and rehab.

A Long Island mother who gave birth while ventilated was reunited with her baby boy, a month after he was delivered via C-section.

A 102-year-old woman survived two bouts with COVID-19 in her Westchester nursing home.
She was born on a ship during the 1918 pandemic.

And as we approach this new year of 2021, we are looking forward with hope, as mass inoculations have begun with promising vaccines. Not everyone among us trusts the science, but many of the nurses and doctors who served on the front lines this year see the shots as a sign of light at the end of a dark tunnel.

PIX11 lead editor David Scanlon collaborated with me to present a look back at the Faces of COVID, a team effort from our newsroom that never forgot the humanity in this crisis we were all confronting.