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Wall Street Journal | July 7, 2021

New York City Ticker-Tape Parade Honors Covid-19 Workers

By Katie Honan

Thousands of healthcare and frontline workers marched in New York City on Wednesday in a ticker-tape parade honoring their work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Blue, white and orange confetti showered nurses, grocery-store workers, food-delivery workers, UPS and FedEx drivers and subway and bus operators as they walked and rode in floats up lower Manhattan’s Broadway. The route, known as the Canyon of Heroes, is the traditional location for the city’s ticker-tape parades.

Temperatures hovering in the 90s led to thinner crowds and to city officials canceling a planned ceremony at City Hall.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who announced plans for the ticker-tape parade last year while the city was still in the grips of the pandemic, acted as the event’s MC after arriving on a float alongside healthcare workers and Mr. and Mrs. Met, the baseball mascots.

“Thank you to the nurses, thank you to the doctors, thank you to the technicians, everybody who made the hospitals work in this crisis—you are our heroes, thank you!,” he said.

Some frontline city workers who were supposed to be honored in the parade didn’t participate out of protest, and some people held signs calling for equal pay. Emergency-medical-services workers who are part of the Fire Department of New York have long pushed for pay parity with their firefighter counterparts.

A spokesman for Mr. de Blasio said that the celebration was to honor the city’s essential workers.

“Today’s about them,” said the spokesman, Mitch Schwartz.

The parade also honored the more than 33,000 New York City residents who died of Covid-19.

Arely Flores Gonzalez, a nurse for 34 years at Mt. Sinai Morningside Hospital, marched while holding a sign and photo of Kious Kelly, a 48-year-old nurse at Mt. Sinai West Hospital who died of Covid-19 in April 2020. Mr. Kelly was one of the first healthcare workers in New York City who died of the virus.

“He made a huge impact on us during the pandemic,” Ms. Gonzalez said. His death was a reminder to her and others “that we could be next,” she said.

Kiki Valentine Rakowsky, 42, marched with a banner honoring those she dubbed last responders—the mortuary workers, funeral directors and embalmers who helped bury and cremate the thousands who died. She is a funeral services assistant at a funeral home in Brooklyn.

They weren’t initially included in the list of honorees, but were later added, she said.

“I saw a need for these particular people to be honored today,” Ms. Rakowsky said.

Sherlane Bongalos, a 36-year-old registered nurse at Bellevue Hospital, also took part in Wednesday’s parade.

She worked at a testing tent outside the hospital for six months starting in March 2020, testing upward of 150 people a day for Covid-19. The experience was surreal, she said, but she knew her job was important.

“New York City came together to celebrate all the frontliners who kept the city going,” she said. “It was an amazing feeling.”