In a series of essays called The Distance, Thomas Lake is telling the stories of Americans living through the pandemic. This story is based on extensive phone interviews with the O’Donnell family. Email if you have a story to share. (CNN)We begin in New York, a few months after the catastrophe. Not the virus of today, but the terrorist attack of 2001. A man walks into a bar near Ground Zero and sees a woman at the pool table, lining up a shot.Down goes the 8-ball. She’s running the table, holding off the Wall Street men. They slap down their quarters, waiting their turn, and she sinks them, one by one.Patty is a classic New Yorker. Tough shell, soft heart. A woman who rescues injured birds. She’s a waitress at Houlihan’s in the Financial District, part of a small crew that came in to clean up and re-open the restaurant after the towers fell. Someone found part of a thumb on the rooftop. The air was filled with toxic dust. Phil works 12 hours a day, seven days a week, fixing the lines for Verizon. He’s dirty and exhausted, but he knows his way to the corner pocket.He looks

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