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The 500,000

The Number


A simple number!

Six digits, in a specific order, signifying a half-million.

A simple number if it represents a half-million ants, or a half-million in net worth. A simple number when talking about molecules, or cars on the road, or the production output of a factory during a particular calendar year.

Not a simple number, however, when it signifies the number of deaths due to a pandemic in one country, that country being the United States of America.

Suddenly that simple number has considerable weight to it, considerable gravitas, considerable sadness which cannot be denied.

Simpler times

Simpler times

A Sad Truth

It is a detached number when seen on the nightly news or read in a newspaper, for we are all familiar with such news. It is black and white in nature. It has very little impact on our lives, if we are being completely honest, and we’ve had a full year to prepare for it, the first hundred-thousand, the second, the third, we’ve seen the number grow as we masked up and social-distanced ourselves. We’ve seen the number grow as our lives have turned topsy-turvy and schools shuttered and businesses adjusted hours, and we’ve heard the number and absorbed the number and gone about our lives, a simple number, a statistic, soon to be another number, and another, and pretty soon hell, half a million ain’t so bad, it’s expected, it’s isolated . . . and so it goes . . . at some point the number will stop growing, will be contained, and we will return to normal.


Empty streets!

Empty streets!

The Math Behind the Math

Here’s the thing, though: it’s not just the 500,000 who were affected. Let’s do some math to support that statement.

Let’s say, on average, each of those 500,000 had three immediate family members, a significant other, children, etc. Suddenly we have 1.5 million who are affected by those deaths in addition, of course, to those who died. 1.5 million people who have lost a loved one. 1.5 million people who now only have memories to cling to, fading photographs replacing once vibrant human beings. 1.5 million people facing new realities, new financial circumstances, new, new, new, all unwanted, all unexpected, all emotionally-crippling.

But there’s more!

Those 500,000, each had friends and extended families, let’s just say ten each, a conservative number for sure, but we’ll say ten per, now we’re up to five million, right? Five million people affected, plus the 500,000 cold and buried, now those numbers are gaining in significance, are they not?

But there’s more!

How many medical personnel took care of those 500,000? How many doctors and nurses and EMTs were involved in trying to save that half-million? How many went home at night, bone-weary and depressed over the loss of another stranger, another patient, stacked up in makeshift morgues like firewood. How many? A couple million? More?

The silent scream of helplessness

The silent scream of helplessness


My dad was in World War 2. I remember, as a child in the 50’s, most of my friend’s dads were veterans. It’s just the way it was. Most had memories of battlefields in distant countries. Almost all had memories of comrades blown asunder, and aunts and grandmothers all had memories of friends directly affected by man’s inhumanity towards man, that’s just the way it was, so far-reaching that war was.

And Vietnam, as a teen and young adult, friends gone forever, families ripped to shreds by shrapnel and mortars, even today, we have several war veterans in the neighborhood, fifty, sixty years after wartime, still affected by the bugle calls to battle, literally millions of Americans, other nationalities, with memories of war, death, ugliness unlike anything we can imagine.

How many affected besides those who died in battle? How many families forever missing a piece of their family puzzle?

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The People Behind the Names

Meet Janette Thompson, former resident of Bellevue, Washington, a mother of four, grandmother of two, died at the age of sixty from COVID.

Janette taught school for thirty years, the last twenty as a beloved 2nd Grade teacher. She also volunteered at her church, feeding the poor, that sort of thing. She and her husband had been foster parents, on sixteen different occasions, believing it was their duty to give their love to those who were in short supply.

She was feeling poorly one Saturday. By Monday she had a hard time breathing. By Wednesday she was on a ventilator, and by the following Saturday she was gone, leaving a gaping hole in the Bellevue community.

Meet Eileen Foster, former resident of Seattle, Washington, a mother of four, a dedicated nurse at a local hospital, dead at forty-two.

For eight long months, Eileen worked the I.U., tending for COVID patients, providing them with loving care, letting them know they were not alone, that someone cared. She would come home and weep, her husband said, weep for those lost, utterly exhausted from the long nights, but grateful that she could spend time with those who died, grateful they did not die alone.

Eileen was dead within ten days of testing positive for the virus, joining her former patients as statistics in a year-long war.

Meet Bobby Hunter, Olympia, much-loved volunteer in the community, Little League coach, church deacon, one of those guys who would literally give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.

Bobby and his wife, Bailey, didn’t have children of their own, so they both worked with kids, helping the disadvantaged, supporting them, listening to them, guiding them through life, doing whatever it took to let those kids know that someone gave a damn.

Bailey died in September. Bobby followed his wife, in death, six weeks after.

These are not numbers. These are people (names changed for privacy), real human beings, actual flesh and bone, the culmination of years of loving and laughing and caring, the culmination of thousands of experiences and shared moments, real human beings, like you, like me, gone now, a small fraction of a huge number . . .


No more barbecues. No more birthdays or Thanksgivings. No more movies, no more christenings, no more howdies to the neighbors, no more, no more, no more, just people, like you and me, their passing leaving gaping holes in the lives of survivors, leaving gaping holes in the fabric of one country, leaving gaping holes in the ever-so-flimsy, ever-so-fleeting feeling of security.

What’s My Point?

I’m not sure I have one, friends. I just don’t want them to be numbers. I don’t want us to ignore the daily totals. I don’t want us to become immune to the loss, for these people counted, a number, a sadly huge number, a significant number and the significance is in the person, every damn one of them, as significant as you and I, a roll of the dice, could have been me, could have been you, and how many more will there be, out of carelessness, out of bad luck, standing too close to someone who doesn’t believe in masking up, standing downwind from the recently infected, just standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, the randomness of it meaning they died and we survived, and you better believe the three-hundred-and-twenty million of us, still standing, are saying a prayer of thanks today, and all of our tomorrows, that Lady Luck tapped us on the shoulder and spared us, while she couldn’t be bothered to do the same for the . . . 500,000!

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

H.O.W. (Humanity One World)


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 31, 2021:

MizB, I hear ya! Bev's brother is a denier. Refuses to get the vaccine, goes to bars where they ignore it if you don't wear a mask. So far he's been lucky, and quite honestly it annoys me that he has been lucky. lol

Oh well, we are both vaccinated and the weather is warming and life is good!

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on March 30, 2021:

Bill, what a lovely and understanding article for such a terrible subject. When you add in the numbers of people affected by the loss of those who died, it is overwhelming. I don't understand why We the People allowed this to become a political football that allowed so many to die. Even today there are still those who refuse to be vaccinated and protest wearing masks. My cousin is an example, and guess what -- she was shocked when she announced on social media that she had covid last week. I haven't checked on her, so I don't know how she is doing. I had to really control my anger to not reply to her "what did you expect?" She has a family who love her, kids, husband, mother, sister. I wonder if they feel as let down as I do. Oh well, live and learn. At least when Larry and I had covid in February of 2020, it was in ignorance because at that time, the government was telling us that the disease had not left the West Coast.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 26, 2021:

Thank you, Heidi, and bless you for caring so deeply. Stay safe, my friend, and Happy Weekend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 26, 2021:

Chrish, you have raised some interesting questions, great food for thought. Thank you for that. You take care, be safe, and blessings to you always.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 26, 2021:

Amen, Gyanendra Mocktan. Thank you for your touching statement of truth. Blessings always!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 26, 2021:

Definitely sad, Linda. I hope you are well, my friend. Bev and I get our second vaccine shot this week. That will provide a bit of comfort and confidence.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 26, 2021:

Thank you Chitrangada Sharan! I plan on wearing a mask long after I am vaccinated. It is no problem for me, and if it can possibly help then it is worth the mild inconvenience.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 26, 2021:

Excellent point, Flourish! As a pet owner, I am fully aware of the sense of loss my dogs would feel if I suddenly died. Thanks for mentioning that.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on March 25, 2021:

Whenever I tune into CNN while I'm working out, they display the current pandemic numbers. It's well over 500K now. The other number I am glad to see is the shots in arms numbers. Those are going up, too, which I hope will help bring a halt to the grim 500K+ number.

Bless you for remembering the stories and people behind the 500K.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 25, 2021:

Nicely stated, Devika. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and stay safe.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 25, 2021:

Rodric, I'm glad to hear you are home again. Stay safe, my friend, and blessings to you always.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 25, 2021:

Thank you for your thoughts, MG, and for your kind words. Be safe!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 25, 2021:

No it doesn't, Bill, and I'm very sorry for your loss. That is extremely sad.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 25, 2021:

Thank you, Denise, and I'm very sorry for your losses. Be safe, and blessings to you always.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 25, 2021:

Very true statement, Linda; we all die a little bit too. Thank you for that.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 25, 2021:

Thank you Brenda! I cannot understand why some will not take the vaccine. I find it sad that they think that way, but all I can do is my part. Blessings to you always.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 25, 2021:

I totally agree with you, Mr. Happy. We cannot be doing well as long as so many are suffering and dying...not in a community! Thank you, sir!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 25, 2021:

Thank you, John! And congratulations, again, on your 500th Hub!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 25, 2021:

EK, thank you for your thoughts on pain and suffering. I am wishing, for you, better days ahead. Stay safe.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 25, 2021:

It is profoundly sad, Marlene, even if we have not lost someone in our immediate family. So many lives lost, many could have been avoided, and I am more than ready for this dark cloud to leave us.

Thank you for sharing your personal experiences, and blessings to you always.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 25, 2021:

Thanks for your thoughts, Liz! I think many of us are doing a great amount of reflecting of late, and that's a good thing. Be well!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 25, 2021:

Thank you, Zulma! Stay safe yourself, and have a fantastic upcoming weekend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 25, 2021:

Let us pray, Manatita! We all need a bit more prayer. Blessings to you always, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 25, 2021:

Thank you Rosina! Let's hope indeed. Better days are ahead of us.

Chrish Canosa from Manila Philippines on March 25, 2021:

My deepest condolences for those who have loss their loved ones. One thing is sure, it saddened us all.

As how you've put it all here Sir Bill.

The critical thing is people add up another turmoil " the pointing finger of whose fault it is " the almost world wife racism hurting each other as if thy were so sure the behind the scene of this agony

" virus" did racism happend during the time of antonine plague in Roman Empire? As I know, we aren't yet in its worst(hopefully this won't happen). I hope everyone will act more human specially nowadys.

Blessing Sir Bill! And take care you all also.

gyanendra mocktan from Kathmandu,Nepal on March 25, 2021:

Bill, these are not numbers. Those people were like us with body, mind and soul. Each one of them surely possessing great heart.

But they bid us good bye forever.


Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 24, 2021:

The situation is very sad, as you’ve described so well. It’s depressing and scary to think that it’s not over yet. I hope the vaccine provides a turning point in the situation. Sadly, that won’t help the people that have already died and their loved ones that miss them.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on March 24, 2021:

Those figures are heart breaking. One year has already passed, but it's not over yet.

We may be carrying on with our day today life, try to keep ourselves positive, and all that. But, at the back of the mind, those tragedies continue to disturb and make us sad, beyond words.

Thank you for writing this impactful article. I hope people continue to follow the guidelines, even if vaccinated. I hope and pray that it's over, as soon as possible.

Thank you for sharing.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 24, 2021:

I’m glad you put it that way. I often think of the ripple effect throughout communities and families from this crisis. Many of the COVID patients also had pets that had to have been impacted by their deaths. They may have even been displaced completely because of the death of their pet parent. The pets don’t understand what happened to the people that were the center of their whole world.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 24, 2021:

Hi Bill in such times we often have to take a step back and think and hope for the best. However, we see it there is nothing much that one can do except for take care of ourselves and others taking the necessary precautions. and following protocols. It is different for every one coping with what is in control. I hope for better and that people learn to follow protocols. Think of others too.

Rodric Anthony from Surprise, Arizona on March 24, 2021:

This article hit home on so many levels. Last night I came home from a six day hospital say unrelated to Covid. One of my roomies is a airforce veteran, young man of 32 who took the Fitzer vaccine. He started having seizures immediately have one right in front of me. Scared me. He left the hospital before me being a healthy vibrant person who responded badly to the vaccine. It reminds us that even dangers lurks in the things that are helping with the virus.

I thought I had Covid a few times but did not. I still plan to get the vacine even though my roomie responded poorly to his first dose. We are so blessed to live in a time where we can detect Covid and treated it. The millions who die, matter. Their stories matter. Thanks

MG Singh emge from Singapore on March 24, 2021:

Billy, you have written a poignant article. Very sad, half a million, that's a big number went away. Nobody can fill the void. Deaths are sad but the real culprit must be punished. That is China. You have written a wonderful article, that made me think.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on March 24, 2021:

Thank you, Bill, for putting a few names to a very sad number. My father in-law is one of them, having succumbed to covid on February 12th. It was awful. All he wanted was to come home and he couldn’t. He died in a hospice facility with no family members at his side. It doesn’t get much worse than that.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on March 24, 2021:

Yes, I don't see how it could be possible for every family in America not to have known at least one victim of the tragedy that is this pandemic. I know I've lost 2 and my sister lost 2 in-laws. It needs to be humanized. It's too easy to hear the number as only statistics and not living, breathing, fellow humans. Thanks for that dose of reality.



Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on March 24, 2021:

Bill, thank you for writing this. It's far too easy to become numb. Half a million is an amount none of us can truly grasp. And, as you pointed out, the toll is far more when you consider those left behind. When a loved one dies, you die a little bit too, every day.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on March 24, 2021:


This number is scary to say the least.

It saddens my heart to see & feel the pain of others I know who have lost loved ones or are currently dealing with this virus.

I took my second Covid-19 vaccine this morning.

I'm hoping for the best outcome.

But while I was there we asked a lady who works as a heslthcare worker how she did with the second vaccine...

Her reply, " I'm not taking one. I decided against it."

I realize this is a personal choice, but I think this is going to take all of us working together.

Thanks for writing this article. Maybe it will help raise awareness to what's really going on..people are dying.

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on March 24, 2021:

The nearly 600,000 in the US really and the nearly 3,000,000 world-wide.

I appreciate your piece of writing in that it urges to think of others. I do think that is important. We cannot be doing well, while our neighbors are dying. We just simply will not. If not financially, we will be affected emotionally.

The next few months will be critical in terms of keeping ourselves safe. I wish everyone all the best!

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 24, 2021:

Bill, the number of deaths is horrendous but each and everyone should be remembered as a valued human being, family member, and friend. Your article does that. Thank you for sharing and shining a light for those we have lost.

EK Jadoon from Abbottabad Pakistan on March 24, 2021:

I can't express my feelings the way want to, Bill. Sometimes the world seems to have stopped. We were living normal lives, but Allah approved of something else. But it is also a test for us humans.

There is a big difference between feeling sorry for someone else and enduring the pain . And the pain can only be better estimated by the sufferer. And you are right that these are not just number. These are people, real human beings, made up of flesh and blood.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 24, 2021:

Thank you Mubarak! I appreciate the kind words.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 24, 2021:

Thank you, Ann! I guess it's a testimony to our resilience that we can't believe it's been a year since the pandemic completely altered our lives. Now it just seems so normal, and that in itself is a sad statement.

Best wishes and good health to you, my friend.


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 24, 2021:

Thank you Peggy! I can't help but be saddened when I think of all the innocents who have died, just the wrong place at the wrong time, and yet I was spared. Makes one think, you know? Blind luck at its best for me.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on March 24, 2021:

"Taps." I cry every time I hear that song being played. To someone who lived on military bases all of my childhood days, Taps has significance beyond just a song being played at the end of each day. It is also a song played at funerals of fallen soldiers during the 21-gun salute. At my adoptive father's funeral, I was as strong as a rock until they started playing Taps. And then I fell apart and had to be held up by another family member.

For the 500,000 that you speak of, it would be nice if we could remember them honorably. Maybe someone should write a song for them and play that song each time someone dies of this horrible COVID-19 disease. I could go on and on, but I am really sad right now. Your article has struck a soft place in my heart.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 24, 2021:

Thank you Misbah, and may God always bless you and your family. I do think this time will pass soon. By summer I think we will be doing much better. Let's hope!

Blessings always!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 24, 2021:

Thank you Pamela! I do think there are brighter days ahead. We all have to hang tough for a couple more months until the vaccine is widely used.

Liz Westwood from UK on March 24, 2021:

This is a very moving, well-written and impactful article. Yesterday marked 12 months since the UK went into its first lockdown. It was an opportunity to pause and reflect on the number of deaths and the vast number of those bereaved. It's important not to become numb to the figures. Each one sadly represents someone who is no longer alive.

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on March 24, 2021:

Hi Bill.

You're right. It's so easy to look at figures, shrug and carry on with our lives. You've taken this figure, humanized it and made it more compelling. We seldom think about the aftereffects of a death let alone deaths of this magnitude and I thank you for reminding us of this.

Have a good day, Bill, and stay safe.

manatita44 from london on March 24, 2021:

This one is like one of those that I like to be silent on. What can I say? You've said all that's to be said. Now let us process it in our own individual ways. Let us pray.

Rosina S Khan on March 24, 2021:

Sure, Bill, the pandemic hit us all over the world. Let's hope the vaccines are an array of hope for better tomorrows. Thank you for writing this splendid piece. Happy Wednesday to you.

Mubarak from INDIA on March 24, 2021:

This is an excellent article. Well done

Ann Carr from SW England on March 24, 2021:

This is an effective piece at humanising the numbers, bill. We have to think of the individuals - one is bad enough, but 500,000!

Apparently, though we in Britain are dealing with the pandemic well, and our vaccines are way beyond the rest of Europe, we have lost more lives than other countries in Europe. I know comparisons are not a good idea because there is such variation in population, land mass, ages etc. but I'm trying to get my head round these figures too. I've given up, and like you have decided to concentrate on my luck so far and the fate of those not so lucky.

Thanks for celebrating all those people. They all made a difference and they all deserved life. Yesterday the nation held a minute's silence and vigils all over the place, as it was one year since the first lockdown began. I can't believe that it's one year on and that it's still happening. We have to hold on to hope and being able to reclaim our daily lives.

Keep safe and well, bill.


Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 24, 2021:

Bill, this article is excellent! One of the national news channels ends its nightly broadcast with a story about a person who died of Covid-19. The story about each person varies, as did yours in the examples you wrote in this post.

Every life matters! It does not matter what color, religion, political beliefs, age, or other things differentiating these people from one another. Each life is precious, and each life lost affects us all in ways we may never even know. Was someone about to discover the cure for cancer? Did the next poet laureate die before penning his or her brilliant piece?

Misbah Sheikh from — This Existence Is Only an Illusion on March 24, 2021:

Alas! It is a great loss, we should be thankful to God. He blessed us all. I feel very sad for the families who have suffered this pain. How hurtful it is to be on a death bed and having no breath.

Let's pray, May God protect all of us and survive those who are struggling with this virus for lives are equally important for everyone. Every life matters. May God give Patience to the families who lost their loved ones due to this invisible foe. It Hurts, It truly hurts. O Lord, you are the listener. Listen to our prayers loud and silent. Protect every one of us. Amen!

Mr. Bill, May God always protect you, your family, and your loved ones — Amen!

I hope this time will pass soon, with no more loss


Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 24, 2021:

This pandemic from China sure impacted people in so may ways. It is heart breaking how many people died, and it sure did impact families, friends and communities. Then, I think of the effect on children and the fact that some teens committed suicide. I sure hope we are nearing the end of this horror. This is an excellent article, Bill.

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