By DEEPTI HAJELA Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Essential workers who helped New York City through the COVID-19 pandemic are being honored Wednesday with a parade up Broadway, a celebration of flying paper and floats that’s been used to fete returning soldiers, astronauts and championship sports teams in the past.
The parade kicked off at Battery Park at 11 a.m., led up Broadway in lower Manhattan by grand marshal Sandra Lindsay, a health care worker who was the first person in the country to get a COVID-19 vaccine shot.
Workers being honored include nurses and doctors, first responders, bus drivers and train operators, education and child care providers, and utility workers.
“We’ve got a lot to appreciate, because we’re well underway in our recovery. We’ve got a lot to celebrate and we’ve got a lot of people to celebrate,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, who rode during the parade on a float with hospital employees and Mr. Met, the mascot of the New York Mets.
“They deserve a march down the Canyon of Heroes, because it’s something that is reserved for the greatest folks in history. Well, here are some of the folks who made history in New York City’s toughest hour,” he said.
The last parade along the iconic stretch known as the Canyon of Heroes honored the U.S. women’s soccer team for their 2019 World Cup win.
Justin Davis, a nurse who came from Pittsburgh to work at a Manhattan hospital during the height of the crisis last year, was excited to be riding in the parade on a float sponsored by AMN Healthcare, the staffing company he works for.
“I think it’s just going to be real cool,” Davis said. “And hopefully it can just bring closure.”
Davis, a 43-year-old military veteran, said he came to New York City when it was a pandemic epicenter, leaving his wife and three young children behind, “because I wanted to do something to make my family proud.”
The parade gave Davis’ family and a whole bunch of New Yorkers a chance to express their pride and gratitude to him and other essential workers.
“This is a huge thing,” said his wife, Jennifer Davis. “This is awesome. We just had to come up here and be here for him, to support him and celebrate him.”
This week’s high temperatures have cut into the celebration somewhat. Originally, a ceremony at City Hall was scheduled to follow the parade.
Instead, de Blasio and his wife will applaud the participants at the end of the route. Water will be available through the route and cooling stations for participants will be located at the beginning and end.
Labor strife has also cut into the plans.
Some EMS workers were planning to boycott the parade to protest what their union says is low pay. A union representing workers in the health field said it was skipping the parade over the end of essential worker pay and a lack of early retirement incentives for its members, who include social workers and contact tracers.