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After more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States hit a grim and harrowing milestone: As of this month, more than one million Americans have died from the virus, which has become the third leading cause of death in the nation. It’s another marker that’s come with little commemoration or acknowledgement, an example of how the country at large is trying to move on from the pandemic and its realties, even as the virus continues to claim lives. But for those who have been directly impacted, there is no forgetting.

Amber Carter lost her 13-year-old daughter Anna, the first child to die from COVID-19 in Oklahoma, in July 2020. The Carters, a military family, have spent their days since then sharing Anna’s story and connecting with others navigating their own grief. Amber is a member of COVID Survivors for Change, a non-profit working to advocate for policies to prevent future pandemics and support survivors. She also founded the Anna Belle Carter Memorial Foundation and the Facebook support group Parents Who Have Lost a Child to Covid-19. “With a tragedy like this, if you don’t find some kind of meaningful purpose in their death, you could get really stuck,” she told “It’s our way of keeping them alive.” Below, Amber shares, in her own words, what it was like to lose Anna so suddenly—and how she hopes the country changes in the wake of these tragedies.

Read More: Elle