"Sometimes I worry I have a hard heart. A cold heart.”

Last responders like Pablo have a front-row seat to the pandemic’s toll: more than 460,000 deaths nationwide and counting. Cremation rates have increased across the country, as families grapple with the financial burden of death.

These workers haven’t experienced the relief of seeing COVID-19 patients recover, only families’ sorrow for ones who could not be saved.

Pablo has seen so much death over the years that he wonders if it’s changed him, forced him to build a protective wall.

“When it hits us personally, I try to feel what these families feel. When you feel the pain and the tears. But nothing comes out. I feel nothing,” he said. “Sometimes I worry I have a hard heart. A cold heart.”

“I think that’s what’s helped me do this job for so long.”