The Last Photo

NBC News asked readers to share the final picture they took before the coronavirus was declared a pandemic. The images, from just one year ago, feel a lifetime away.

By Elizabeth Chuck
March 10, 2021

Sports games in packed arenas. Weekend getaways and world travels. Birthday parties with family and friends.

Just as striking about what is in our photos from one year ago is what is not: No masks. No 6-foot gaps between people. No bottles of hand sanitizer.

NBC News asked readers to send in the last photo they took before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

Nearly 900 images documenting the final gasp of pre-pandemic life flooded in — images that many people said they had no idea would be “the last.” The last hug with a grandparent. The last track meet before school went remote and athletics got shut down. The last church choir practice, the last meal with colleagues, the last concert.

Since the pandemic began, it has been “daily grief over some new thing lost that you didn’t even know you treasured,” wrote one reader, Leanne DeShong of Kansas City, Missouri, who shared a photo from March 6, 2020, of her daughter performing in a high school musical. 

“No visits to see my kids in college. No weddings,” she wrote. “Lots of death, but no funerals.”

Yet, even amid the immeasurable pain of this past year, some found bright spots. They celebrated a birth in the family, discovered hobbies, flexed cooking skills and enjoyed more bonding time with the people and pets they live with.

Scroll down to see a selection of the last photos from before the coronavirus changed how we live, and share yours on social media using the hashtag #TheLastPhoto.

Some captions have been condensed or lightly edited for clarity.

Six readers gave in-depth interviews to NBC News about their final pre-pandemic photos and what has changed in their lives since then. For their stories, and insights from experts into why these photos can be such painful reminders of our old way of life, click here.

Illustration: Katty Huertas. Art Director: Chelsea Stahl. Design and development: Robin Muccari.