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COVID-19 Takes 3 Members Of 1 Family


In the U.S., COVID-19 has taken the lives now of more than 50,000 people. Some places have been hit hard, as have some families, like the Bullocks of Rockland County in New York. Charles Bullock, his wife Lois and their daughter Chanda all died within days of one another after contracting the coronavirus. The family was known in Rockland County for their activism and compassion. And joining us now to discuss their legacy is Brandon McLauchlin, pastor of St. Charles AME Zion Church. Thank you so much for joining us.

BRANDON MCLAUCHLIN: Thank you for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Charles Bullock was the first African American fire chief in Rockland. He was a trailblazer.

MCLAUCHLIN: Yes. In 1968, he became the first African American fireman there in central Nyack station. And 10 years after that, he was named the chief in that area. So very much a trailblazer to do that in that time.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell us about his wife. She worked for the school district.

MCLAUCHLIN: Yes, she worked for the school district. She was very quiet. Where Charles was an extrovert, she was an introvert. But she had an amazing smile and really enjoyed learning. Her grandchildren - she wanted them to learn. Her great-grandchildren - she even worked with them to make sure that they were learning and growing and loving to read. So she was a wonderful woman, as well. And I call her the backbone of that family. She was the silent strength.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I believe they met when they were 5 years old.

MCLAUCHLIN: They've had a long history together and wonderful children that have come from their time together. They were stuck together like glue.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Can you tell me a little bit about their daughter, who was a health care social worker?

MCLAUCHLIN: Chanda was the best of them wrapped up in one. She had her mom's smile and her dad's personality and was always out and enjoying life, laughing loud. She was our travel agent, as well. She took the church on our first cruise. And instead of taking the proceeds, she donated everything back to the church because she was just an amazing giver of her time and her resources. So she was amazing in her profession and certainly amazing when it came to her church and blessing others.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This must have been very difficult. I mean, all three were members of your church. Can you talk to me a little bit about how their family has reacted to lose three of its members and how the community has reacted?

MCLAUCHLIN: It's been, you know, a really crushing blow. It's been difficult for all of us. Rockland County is a very small county, and it's kind of everybody knows everybody. And so when one family is hurting the way that the Bullock family is, we're all hurting.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It must've been hard not to be able to have a public funeral where people could grieve together for the Bullocks.

MCLAUCHLIN: Extremely difficult. As a pastor, you're so used to being able to be with the people that you love. These are my family members. And so to not be able to grieve together, to cry together, it's been extremely difficult. But we've been having to just try to be there as best we can from a distance. Just this week, we all rode past the house and beeped our horns. And the fire trucks and the police cars were all together to really just try to share love with this family. And so we're all hurting here. But we're all trying our best to help this family to grieve. And so we're wrapping our arms around them.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Brandon McLauchlin, senior pastor of St. Charles AME Zion Church, speaking to us about Charles, Lois and Chanda Bullock, whose lives were taken by COVID-19. Thank you very much.

MCLAUCHLIN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.

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