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Remembering 5 remarkable people who lost their lives to COVID-19

Each week, PBS NewsHour pauses to remember five Americans lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, and shares memories and highlights from their lives.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The coronavirus' toll on our lives and our country has been immense. In the past day, the number of deaths has passed 600,000.

    For the many families who have lost loved ones during this pandemic, the toll is greater still.

    We pause now to remember some of their lives.

    Patty Sakal was a lifeline for Hawaii's deaf community after the coronavirus hit. For months, the 62-year-old served as a sign language interpreter during state and city government pandemic briefings. Patty dedicated her life to ensuring deaf people were treated equitably and fully informed, her sister said.

    Growing up in Honolulu, Patty and her two siblings would interpret the nightly news for their parents, both of whom were deaf. Later in life, the mother of three and grandmother of two helped create a nonprofit that provided resources for Hawaii's deaf community, named in honor of her mother and father.

    Leslie Hagan-Morgan loved his South Los Angeles community and worked to make it a better place. The 38-year-old husband and father of two ran a charter school, coached basketball and helped to enroll struggling students in community college.

    Leslie was focused on connecting students with their purpose, away from gang violence, his wife told us. He leaves behind a food program he launched after noticing his students were struggling because they didn't have enough to eat.

    Fifty-two-year-old Daryl Tombs served as a critical care paramedic in New York for the past three decades. A husband and father of six, Daryl spent his life caring for others, often in their moment of greatest need.

    On the morning of September 11, 2001, Daryl and his wife were volunteering with the local ambulance crew when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Daryl quickly assembled a team of paramedics and drove into the city to help. His wife said Daryl loved spending time with his family and seven grandchildren.

    Alicia Martinez was a first-generation college student determined to help people. The 21-year-old was working toward her masters in social work at Baylor University. She was kind, loved to paint and draw, and had helped start a reading program for young students in her hometown of Waco, Texas, her father said.

    After her passing, Alicia's parents accepted her diploma during Baylor's graduation ceremony this spring.

    Donnell Cobbins Jr., a fourth generation minister, was born and raised in South Memphis. Donnell, a father of two, served as a pastor at St. Luke Missionary Church in the same neighborhood where he grew up. People gravitated toward him and he gravitated toward people, Donnell's younger brother told us.

    He was known as a role model, exceptionally bright and always curious. When the pandemic began, Donnell applied for a grant to keep church services going virtually. Shortly after his passing, the church received the funding, a gift he leaves behind. Donnell was 49 years old.

    And we are so grateful to family members for sharing these stories. Our hearts go out to you, as they do to everyone who's lost a loved one in this pandemic.

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