Daniel Hajek

On a warm May night, the sound of footsteps and a stranger's voice in the darkness outside his home startled a man in Afghanistan. Alarmed, he went to investigate. He saw that someone had affixed something to his door.

He found a handwritten note: "You have been helping U.S. occupier forces and ... you are an ally and spy of infidels, we will never leave you alive."

Dr. Angela Chen, an emergency medicine doctor at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, says she is pretty good at dealing with the unexpected. It's part of what drew her to emergency medicine, and her work on emergency cases trained her to navigate uncertain times.

Then, there was COVID-19.

Most mornings, Paulino Ramos sat under the small tree at the entrance of a busy Home Depot parking lot near Downtown Los Angeles. Other day laborers hanging around on the corner knew they could find their friend there, waiting in the shade for construction jobs. But in early September, they noticed Ramos, the sturdily built demolition worker, looked weak.

It's been a brutal year for Americans.

The relentless spread of COVID-19, the ensuing economic crisis and the reckoning around social injustice has made this a year like none other.

NPR wanted to know how these cataclysmic, consequential events have affected American families and how those experiences might shape their political choices in the upcoming presidential election.

In June, Marcel Lopez and his cousins set up a Zoom video call to say goodbye to their grandfather. Retired physician, José Gabriel López-Plascencia — Dr. López for short — was near death at his home in Phoenix. He was unable to speak, but he let his grandchildren know he was listening.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Last month, Raj Patel was talking with his friend, a doctor, who sounded absolutely exhausted.

RAJ PATEL: We were talking over dinner, and I come to find out that he was sleeping in his garage.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On Friday, a new name was added to the Hollywood Walk of Fame: Andranik Madadian, who performs as Andy and has been nicknamed the Prince of Persian Pop, is the first Iranian artist to have a star on the Walk, according to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Andy has toured the world and amassed a huge fan base among Persian and Armenian Americans; Last week, those fans turned out in huge numbers in Los Angeles for his star's unveiling, chanting his name throughout the ceremony.

On Nov. 16, 1989, a housekeeper named Lucía Cerna was startled awake by a violent commotion outside her window.

"I heard shooting, shooting at lamps, and walls, and windows," Cerna writes in her memoir, La Verdad: A Witness to the Salvadoran Martyrs. "I heard doors kicked, and things being thrown."

Armed soldiers broke into the José Simeón Cañas Central American University on the outskirts of El Salvador's capital, and raided the residence where six Jesuit priests were sleeping.

After nearly 50 years, KISS is saying goodbye to touring. The over-the-top purveyors of heavy metal have embarked on a year-long finale tour titled "One Last KISS: End of the Road World Tour." The 105-stop tour spans North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand and will encapsulate KISS' larger-than-life show for the last time.

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