National News

Frontline Workers Honored During New York City’s First ‘Hometown Heroes’ Parade

  • Aboard the NY-Presbyterian float for the “Hometown Heroes” ticker tape parade July 7, members of the Diocese of Brooklyn's Emergency Task Force waved to the crowds in Manhattan. (Photos: Vincent Levien)

The first American who received the COVID-19 vaccine served as Grand Marshal

By Alexandra Moyen

WINDSOR TERRACE — On Dec. 14, Sandra Lindsay made headlines as the first American to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. On July 7, the intensive care nurse from New York was honored for her bravery by serving as Grand Marshal of New York City’s first “Hometown Heroes” ticker-tape parade that honored essential workers.

Following closely behind her in the parade was Michelle Chester, the woman who gave her the shot.

“We’ve accomplished so much, still more to go,” Chester told Currents News. “But it’s a proud moment and I’m proud of each and every individual standing here today.”

For parade attendee Syliva Pinder, Sandra is a hero.

“She showed bravery, she took the shot, being the very first one,” Pinder said.

Grateful New Yorkers filled the sidewalk as confetti filled the sky while essential workers filled what’s known as the Canyon of Heroes.

Healthcare and frontline workers faced a much higher risk of becoming infected with the coronavirus due to the high volume of patients they were exposed to. On April 12, according to New York State official data, New York reached its highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations with a total of 18,825. 

The pandemic created a higher risk of anxiety and depression for medical staff, and for Catholic nurses like Katie, it was a defining moment in their careers. 

“It was really, really hard,” Katie told Currents News with her son by her side and her cross close to her heart. “The things that I saw were traumatizing, probably for the rest of my life, but I’m so glad that we were all able to stick together.”

The Diocese of Brooklyn had a strong presence at the parade including Vincent Levien and members of the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Emergency Task Force. They were front and center and honored for their frontline work.

“We were honored to help save lives,” Levien told Currents News, “and we are honored to be on NY-Presbyterian’s float.”

However, thousands of workers, including paramedics, EMTs, and firefighters, boycotted the celebration in Manhattan. A large contingent of frontline workers is asking for fair pay and better treatment by the city instead of a parade. 

“We believe New York’s brave essential workers should be recognized in a meaningful way, but the public display from the de Blasio administration is all optics and no substance,” Oren Barzilay, president of Local 2507, said in a statement. 

Firefighters and emergency medical technicians have not received a raise or hazard pay, despite working 12-hour shifts and reporting to roughly 6,500 medical emergencies. 

Eric Adams, the Democratic mayoral candidate of New York City, addressed their position while walking along the parade route and said he respected their decision.

“We have to deal with pay equity,” Adams said. “They decided to boycott and I respect that.”

For some, this was a time to take a stand, but for others, this was a moment to let loose after a tense year.