The Lost Americans

A widow in North Carolina whose husband died of Covid-19 feels crushed when she hears people talk casually about life in America returning to normal. I will never go back to normal, she thinks to herself. I still feel as though I am missing a limb.

A man in New York City who lost his wife to Covid ruminates on the days before she got sick two years ago. He worries that he brought the virus into their apartment, wonders if her death was his fault and asks the unanswerable: Why did he survive Covid, but she did not?

A woman in Minnesota whose mother died from the coronavirus is mired in what she calls “Covid grief.” It deepens when she sees the pandemic mentioned on Facebook, when someone says how happy they are to be reuniting with loved ones again, when she is forced to listen to chatter of masks or politics or vaccines.

“There’s a reminder of how she died, literally every single day, multiple times a day,” said Erin Reiner, whose mother, Gwen Wilson, was a champion bowler and quilter in Kansas until her death at the age of 72.

For more than two years, Americans have made their way through a pandemic that has upended plans, brought tumult and despair, and sickened millions.

But one group has been forced onto a separate path. These are the loved ones of the nearly one million people in the United States who have now died of Covid-19, a catastrophic toll that reflects a death rate higher than in almost any other wealthy country.

These families have walked a path in isolation, mourning and anger. They are carrying a grief that feels lonely, permanent and agonizingly removed from the country’s shared journey.

In dozens of interviews, people across America who have lost family members, spouses and friends to Covid described how they have experienced the pandemic, from the fearful unknowns of the early weeks to this moment, with a reopened nation moving forward, even as more than 300 people are dying every day.

They shared a dispiriting feeling: that the people they loved have been rendered invisible in a country eager to put the pandemic in the past. For now, there is no enduring national memorial to the people who have died, no communal place to gather and mourn. Many families are wondering whether the country views the deaths of their loved ones with real compassion — or indifference.

To these Americans, there are the people who lost someone to Covid, and the people who did not.

“They can’t walk in our shoes,” Ms. Reiner said. “For us, the pandemic isn’t just this blip in our history. People talk about it like it’s such an inconvenience — we don’t get to do this, we don’t get to have this celebration. I only wish that’s all it was for us, for me, for the countless other families.”

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Texas Court Allows Abuse Inquiries of Parents of Transgender Children

In March, a district judge, Amy Clark Meachum in Travis County, ordered all such investigations to stop, pending a trial. She found that the governor’s order had been improperly adopted and violated the State Constitution. An appeals court allowed the district judge’s temporary injunction to remain in force.

Mr. Abbott and Mr. Paxton took the case to the Texas Supreme Court, arguing that the investigations, on their own, were not an “injury” and that the district court had overstepped its authority in preventing them. All nine members of the state’s highest court are Republican; five were appointed by Mr. Abbott.

The court found that Mr. Abbott and Mr. Paxton could not in fact require certain kinds of investigations by the Department of Family and Protective Services, and that the agency had discretion over how it conducted its abuse inquiries. “Neither the governor nor the attorney general has statutory authority to directly control” the department’s investigatory decisions, wrote Justice Jimmy Blacklock, who was appointed by Mr. Abbott in 2018.

“Just as the governor lacks authority to issue a binding ‘directive’ to D.F.P.S., the court of appeals lacks authority to afford statewide relief to nonparties,” Justice Blacklock wrote.

Mr. Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs were encouraged by aspects of the ruling. “The court rejected the state’s arguments to get rid of the case entirely,” said Karen Loewy, senior counsel at Lambda Legal, which represented the plaintiffs along with the American Civil Liberties Union.

The court made clear, she said, that while statewide investigations by the protective services agency could resume, “any similar investigation” to the one into her clients “would cause the same irreparable harm” and that “the appropriate thing to do would be to exercise the discretion that they had before the governor got involved.”

The appeals court will now consider arguments from state officials and the plaintiffs over Judge Meachum’s decision. A trial, originally scheduled for July, is now on hold pending those arguments.

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How Two Middle School ‘Desperadoes’ Ended Up in a Police Shootout

“Florida is doing this at a rate that is unheard-of in any other place,” said Yasamin Sharifi, who co-wrote the report.

Since the mid-20th century, community-based counseling, therapy and in some cases medication have been preferred over lengthy inpatient treatment for children with serious behavior disorders. Some of those who worked with Nicole said she was sometimes pulled out of programs that might have helped her as a result of her own bad behavior.

“People say the system has failed on me,” Nicole said in a telephone interview from Volusia County jail. “I don’t think I should go to prison. Obviously, I don’t. Little kids like me, 14-year-olds, make mistakes.

“Just not this big.”

Both the Department of Juvenile Justice, which operates delinquency diversion programs, and the Department of Children and Families, which oversaw Nicole’s mental health care, declined to speak about her case, citing privacy laws.

Mallory McManus, a spokeswoman for the children and families agency, said the state was expanding adult mental health services to include more children, and trying to cut down on the use of involuntary mental health commitments with better preventive services that include a single point of contact for children and families.

“The goal of children’s care coordination is to overcome systemic barriers to services, enable sharing of information across organizations, and increase access to care,” she said in an email.

After the Parkland shooting in 2018, when a teenage gunman with mental problems fatally shot 17 classmates and staff members, the state poured $28 million into mobile response and community action teams designed to help troubled children. Gov. Ron DeSantis pledged $23 million of coronavirus relief funding in 2020 to expand mental health services and then backed plans to add a “resiliency” curriculum in the schools to help children build the mental health skills to cope with the hurdles life puts in their way.

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Surfside Condo Collapse Victims Reach $997 Million Settlement

MIAMI — Families of the victims of the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Fla., that killed 98 people last year have reached a $997 million settlement to compensate them for their staggering losses of life and property.

The settlement, revealed at a court hearing on Wednesday and still pending final approval, includes insurance companies, developers of an adjacent building and other defendants in the extensive civil case. It comes six weeks before the one-year anniversary of the tragedy on June 24.

“I’m shocked by this result — I think it’s fantastic,” said Judge Michael A. Hanzman of the Circuit Court in Miami-Dade County. “This is a recovery that is far in excess of what I had anticipated.”

Before Wednesday’s surprise announcement, the judge had approved a far smaller settlement of $83 million to be split among condo unit owners for their property losses. No compensation had been determined for the families of the dead, leading to friction and raw, emotional court testimony at a March hearing pitting those who lost their homes against those who lost their loved ones.

The settlement grew exponentially after the developers of the adjacent luxury building, Eighty Seven Park, and a slew of contractors and consultants who had been sued or investigated by the survivors’ and victims’ lawyers signed on. The plaintiffs had argued that construction work at Eighty Seven Park damaged Champlain Towers South — an accusation that Eighty Seven Park’s developers and contractors denied.

The lawyers said the settlement could expand further, to more than $1 billion, if they reach an agreement with a remaining company. Among the companies that agreed to settle are the engineers who had inspected and begun to conduct work to address serious structural flaws in Champlain Towers South before the collapse.

Judge Hanzman, who has maintained an aggressive schedule throughout the case, said he would like to finalize the settlement before June 24 and compensate survivors and victims’ families by the fall.

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Young Thug, Atlanta Rap Star, Is Arrested on Gang-Related Charges

Monday’s 88-page indictment, however, alleges that the gang was involved in a wide variety of illegal activities, including witness intimidation, murder, attempted murder, carjacking, robbery, theft and drug dealing. A number of people are named as victims of shootings or attempted shootings, including Dwayne Carter, the New Orleans hip-hop star who raps under the name Lil Wayne, and whose tour bus was shot at by a YSL member named Jimmy Winfrey in April 2015, according to the indictment.

Mr. Williams is named as having committed a number of illegal acts for which he is not charged, but which are described as “overt acts” in furtherance of the group’s criminal conspiracy. Among those allegations are an instance of threatening to kill a man at a mall and possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute it. Mr. Williams is also alleged to have rented a silver Infiniti Q50 sedan that was used in the commission of the murder of a rival gang leader, Donovan Thomas Jr., in January 2015.

Five men are charged with murder in connection with Mr. Thomas’s death. One of them, Deamonte Kendrick, is identified as Yak Gotti, a rapper on the YSL label.

Previous court documents say that Mr. Thomas’s compatriots blamed YSL for his death. On Tuesday, Ms. Willis said that his murder “created violence like Atlanta has never seen.” She also said she promised Mr. Thomas’s mother she would do everything she could “to make sure that her son had justice.”

On Tuesday, Brian Steel, a lawyer for Mr. Williams, said that YSL was not a street gang. “Mr. Williams came from an incredible horrible upbringing, and he has conducted himself throughout his life in a way that is just to marvel at,” Mr. Steel said. “He’s committed no crime whatsoever.”

Also charged with one count of racketeering is Sergio Kitchens, the well-known rapper who performs as Gunna. The indictment alleges he committed felonies including receiving stolen property and drug possession with intent to distribute.

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As a ‘Seismic Shift’ Fractures Evangelicals, an Arkansas Pastor Leaves Home

FORT SMITH, Ark. — In the fall of 2020, Kevin Thompson delivered a sermon about the gentleness of God. At one point, he drew a quick contrast between a loving, accessible God and remote, inaccessible celebrities. Speaking without notes, his Bible in his hand, he reached for a few easy examples: Oprah, Jay-Z, Tom Hanks.

Mr. Thompson could not tell how his sermon was received. The church he led had only recently returned to meeting in person. Attendance was sparse, and it was hard to appreciate if his jokes were landing, or if his congregation — with family groups spaced three seats apart, and others watching online — remained engaged.

So he was caught off guard when two church members expressed alarm about the passing reference to Mr. Hanks. A young woman texted him, concerned; another member suggested the reference to Mr. Hanks proved Mr. Thompson did not care about the issue of sex trafficking. Mr. Thompson soon realized that their worries sprung from the sprawling QAnon conspiracy theory, which claims that the movie star is part of a ring of Hollywood pedophiles.

For decades, Mr. Thompson, 44, had been confident that he knew the people of Fort Smith, a small city tucked under a bend in the Arkansas River along the Oklahoma border. He was born at the oldest hospital in town, attended public schools there and grew up in a Baptist church that encouraged him to start preaching as a teenager. He assumed he would live in Fort Smith for the rest of his life.

Roe v. Wade looks like a triumphant era for conservative evangelicals. But there are deepening cracks beneath that ascendance.

Across the country, theologically conservative white evangelical churches that were once comfortably united have found themselves at odds over many of the same issues dividing the Republican Party and other institutions. The disruption, fear and physical separation of the pandemic have exacerbated every rift.

Many churches are fragile, with attendance far below prepandemic levels; denominations are shrinking, and so is the percentage of Americans who identify as Christian. Forty-two percent of Protestant pastors said they had seriously considered quitting full-time ministry within the past year, according to a new survey by the evangelical pollster Barna, a number that had risen 13 points since the beginning of 2021.

Michael O. Emerson, a sociologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, described a “seismic shift” coming, with white evangelical churches dividing into two broad camps: those embracing Trump-style messaging and politics, including references to conspiracy theories, and those seeking to navigate a different way.

Donald J. Trump and urging Christians to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. But more often, the ruptures are quieter: a pastor who moves to another church to avoid a major confrontation, or who changes careers without fanfare.

Bible teacher Beth Moore, who were theologically conservative and skeptical of becoming entangled with either political party.

a successful effort to change the “Johnny Reb” mascot at his old high school. But the phrase “Black lives matter” rankled some congregants.

Mr. Kolp said he found the far-reaching conversations about racism spurred by Mr. Thompson too negative. America does have a history of racism, he said. But “if the slave trade had never happened, would they still be in Africa? Would they have the prominent positions?” he wondered about Black people. “And now our pastor’s talking about it, and we’re systemically racist because we’re white?”

Mr. Thompson’s actual sermons were hardly scathing. At one point he asserted, “If you grew up in any way like me, there’s bigotry within you” and encouraged listeners to seek out perspectives other than their own.

His friend Steven Dooly, a white former police officer with two Black children, sometimes urged him to speak even more directly on racial justice. But he knew Mr. Thompson was in a difficult position. “You’d hate to see a church fall completely apart over a few lines in a sermon,” he said.

For many pastors whose conservatism matches their congregations, however, there is little cost to speaking out. Some conservative pastors now find that their congregations want not careful, conciliatory talk, but bold pushback to what they see as rising threats from the secular world.

“There’s a great separation taking place,” said Wade Lentz, pastor of Beryl Baptist Church in Vilonia, Ark., a few hours east of Fort Smith. “A lot of people are getting tired of going to church and hearing this message: ‘Hey, it’s a great day, every day is a great day, the sun is always shining.’ There’s this big disconnect between what’s going on behind the pulpit in those churches and what’s going on in the real world.”

Mr. Lentz has seen his church grow as he leaned into topics like vaccine mandates, which he preached against in a sermon titled “We Believe Tyranny Must be Resisted.” In 2020, sensing “so much disruption in the world,” he started a podcast in which he explores political topics with a fellow “patriot” pastor.

“This mind-set that Christianity and politics, and the preacher and politics, need to be separate, that’s a lie,” he said. “You cannot separate the two.”

At Community Bible, just about everyone liked Mr. Thompson, but some could not understand why he picked the causes he did. “There are areas he should have backed off of,” said Johnny Fisher, one of the church’s founding members. “The best thing probably is to shut up and answer any questions that are given to you from the Bible.”

The church stopped growing. Whole families were leaving; Richy Fisher, a pastor and consultant who prepared a report for the church in 2019, described membership as “hemorrhaging.” (Richy and Johnny Fisher are brothers.)

Mr. Thompson was equally frustrated by the actions of some of his congregants. People he thought should have known better were endorsing online conspiracy theories about Covid-19 and the results of the 2020 election. On his blog, he called for Christians to apply “research and discernment.” “When we share, promote, like and further things that are not true about others, we are violating the ninth commandment,” he wrote.

Fort Smith’s mayor, George McGill, said his city was like many other places in the country: Issues including masks and vaccination have fractured relationships, and people doubt the leaders they once trusted. Mr. McGill, the city’s first Black mayor, saw Mr. Thompson as someone who spoke the truth. But within his community, antagonists “rose up against the very people God had put in place.”

Mr. Thompson’s reputation did appear to be shifting. A local woman emailed her Bible study group in the summer of 2020, warning that he was promoting a “progressive Leftist agenda.” When Mr. Thompson invited her to meet with him, pointing out that he was a frequent guest of Focus on the Family Radio and hardly a leftist, she accused him of being beholden to “The Marxist Agenda” and “the BLM agenda.”

When a job offer came last summer to become an associate pastor at a larger church in the Sacramento area, Mr. Thompson accepted.

Mr. Thompson hoped that the church’s next leader could preach “the same truth” without the baggage that had accrued around him. But he also wondered how the next generation of pastors would lead. Seminaries are shrinking, and many in his own congregation seemed to view his theological training as the thing that turned him “liberal.” The next generation might have less training, and be more inclined to turn churches into “an echo chamber of what the people want.”

Months after his departure, Community Bible was still figuring out its future. “We’re still bleeding some, but it’s under control,” Mr. Saucier, the founding pastor, said in December. The church’s interim leader is Richy Fisher; the church’s board recommended this spring that he take the role permanently, and a congregational vote will take place May 22.

In the meantime, the people of Fort Smith have different choices than when Mr. Thompson arrived at Community Bible. Newer churches with flashier aesthetics have popped up in town. A branch of New Life, a multisite church with more than 15 locations across the state, is practically across the street.

On a recent Sunday morning, the congregation at New Life heard a sermon drawn from the book of Daniel.

“America is no longer a Christian nation,” the pastor said, setting up a message about resisting the broader culture’s pressure to change “what we say, how we raise our kids, how and when we can pray, what marriage is.” The sermon’s title was “Stand Firm.”

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Where Does the Anti-Abortion Movement Go After Roe?

“We are prepared to not only create a legal landscape to protect life at the federal and state levels, but also to support a culture of life,” said Kristen Waggoner, general counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which supports Mississippi’s ban at 15 weeks that led to the Supreme Court case that could overturn Roe.

Advocates on the left see the leaked draft laying out a playbook for a sweeping attempt to roll back other established rights. “There are some folks on the right saying they’re just turning back to the states, when in fact it’s very clear their agenda is much broader than that,” Ms. Ford of NARAL said. “It’s not just about abortion.”

Criticism that such a decision could create a cultural revolution, potentially upending precedent protections for other issues, including contraception and same-sex and interracial marriage is “hysteria and scaremongering,” Ms. Waggoner said.

Abortion uniquely has sustained support and energy, as shown by the annual March for Life, abortion opponents said.

Ms. Carroll, the spokeswoman for the Susan B. Anthony List, noted that there have not been sustained mass protests over other landmark Supreme Court rulings, on issues such as interracial marriage and contraception.

The movement has long been divided loosely into incrementalists, mainstream groups such as the Susan B. Anthony List and the National Right to Life Committee, that for years focused on gaining ground restriction by restriction, and absolutists, who saw anything less than the total elimination of abortion as failure. This moment is a convergence of both, with the court considering reversing Roe, and states like Texas and Oklahoma effectively banning abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy, before many women even realize they are pregnant.

Now there are emerging disagreements on the moral and practical benefits of strategies like prosecuting pregnant women, and making it illegal to cross state lines for an abortion.

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Formula 1 Roars Into Miami, Where Cars Are Already King

MIAMI — The bald and tattooed man known as Juice cruises South Florida in a car named Charlie Brown.

Not just any car: a 1974 Chevrolet Caprice Classic convertible in metallic golden brown with 24-inch, 24-karat gold rims that run $30,000, a custom gold plate that reads “Ch4rlie” and an all-leather tan interior kept so pristine that he does not allow just anyone inside. When the rapper Pitbull featured Charlie Brown in a music video, Juice forbade the lightly dressed young women swaying in the back from wearing shoes.

“My car is like my baby,” he explained.

Charlie Brown is a “donk,” a customized 1970s Chevy high-riser with large wheels, the kind of big, flashy hulk that three decades ago became Miami’s contribution to American car culture and then spread to other cities in the South. Since then, the world of souped-up cars, luxury cars and collector cars has only flourished.

Some of that culture will be on display this weekend, when South Florida hosts a new Formula 1 Grand Prix, the sort of buzzy sporting event that makes Miami Miami. Formula 1, which commands a vast international audience, is seeking to capitalize on its growing U.S. popularity, fueled in part by the success of the Netflix show “Drive to Survive,” as NASCAR’s television ratings have been in decline.

rode in a replica black Ferrari Daytona Spyder to the sound of Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight.” (Ferrari sued, then had a change of heart and donated Crockett’s white Ferrari Testarossa.)

had wanted to race downtown, between Biscayne Bay and the gleaming Miami skyline. Instead, they constructed a faux marina for dry-docked boats in a part of the venue named the “Yacht Club.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Mr. Shapiro said.

Four-ticket packages there sold for $38,000.

Florida likes to build highways, despite the state’s vulnerability to climate change, and ordinary Miamians, with limited public transportation options, spend long hours in their cars. A defunct local blog was aptly named “Stuck on the Palmetto,” a reference to the perennially backed up State Road 826.

“Cars are endemic here,” said Justin Landau, the co-chief executive of El Car Wash, a chain of express carwashes that offers unlimited washes for $29.99 per month. One of its banners reads, “Rain doesn’t clean cars.”

cutting Major League Baseball players’ hair in 1993 and now has a barbershop inside the Miami Marlins’ stadium. The pitcher Dontrelle Willis bought him the ’74 Caprice, his dream car, off eBay. A Charlie Brown figurine hangs from the rearview mirror.

Juice meets other donk owners on Sunday evenings, in the parking lot of a Sonic. They hang out, listen to music and geek out over car upgrades. He organizes a New Year’s Day ride that draws hundreds of drivers.

One recent evening, as Juice showed off his car in a public park, a man named Miguel approached and sheepishly asked if he could take a closer look.

“I love cars,” he said.

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Texas Governor Ready to Challenge Schooling of Migrant Children

Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for many public benefits. And Texas offers fewer than most states.

Edna Yang of American Gateways, an immigration legal services provider in Texas, said that undocumented immigrants in the state qualified for only a small number of benefits, including emergency medical services, food aid for children and public education.

The governor’s office has said that the cost of each additional student enrolled in Texas public schools is about $6,100 per year, not including the cost of providing bilingual and special education services, which add more than $2,000 in additional spending.

The last time the state’s comptroller studied the issue was in 2006. The report found that while undocumented children cost about $1 billion to educate at the time, unauthorized migration into the state had an overall positive effect on the Texas economy. Mr. Huennekens, of the immigration reform group, said the state’s programs for students with limited English proficiency cost more than $7 billion in 2016.

But barring undocumented students could upend the system for everyone, said Zeph Capo, the president of Texas AFT, a teachers’ union, who said schools could lose the per-pupil state funding that accompanies those students as well as the additional money sent by the federal government. “All undocumented kids are not all in one school or in one school district,” he said. “It’s going to hurt everybody.”

Attitudes about immigration have shifted in Texas, where former Republican governors like George W. Bush and Rick Perry adopted relatively moderate tones. Mr. Perry, during his term, signed a law allowing undocumented college students access to in-state tuition and financial aid at public universities in Texas.

But taking a hard stance on immigration has been a politically comfortable place for Mr. Abbott. He used the issue to beat back challengers in the Republican primary, and has returned to it in his general election contest against Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat and former congressman from El Paso.

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