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An 'American Portrait' of the Personal Stories of People During COVID-19

Daniel Hautzinger
A woman gathers donations in Utah. Photo: PBS/RadicalMedia
A woman gather donations during the coronavirus pandemic in Utah. Photo: PBS/RadicalMedia

In This Together: A PBS American Portrait Story airs Friday, May 8 at 9:00 pm on WTTW or at 8:00 pm on the WTTW Facebook page, and is available to stream the same day.

The United States is such a vast country, full of millions of people with different backgrounds, geographies, and experiences. How do you capture even just a snapshot of such a multifarious nation? 

Since January, PBS has been collecting stories from people across the United States with the aim of creating a portrait, however limited, of what it means to be an American today. Anyone can respond to various prompts and submit videos, photographs, or text stories about themselves and their lives as part of PBS American Portrait, at

The crowdsourced initiative had already collected thousands of submissions when the novel coronavirus began spreading across the United States and upending lives. Since then, the answer to the question, "What does it mean to be an American today?" has shifted. In This Together: A PBS American Portrait Story spotlights the personal, firsthand stories of people as they deal with the effects of the pandemic—just like WTTW's digital series FIRSTHAND: Coronavirus

Watching statistics rack up and hearing top-level updates from government officials only provides part of the story of this unprecedented crisis. Individual stories reveal the human side of the pandemic.