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NYC Honored Essential Workers With A Ticker Tape Parade That Stretched A Mile

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

New York City held a ticker-tape parade today to celebrate the local heroes who kept the city going during the pandemic. As WNYC's Karen Yi reports, confetti rained down on bodega owners and nurses and transit workers to name a few in a time-honored New York tradition.

KAREN YI, BYLINE: The last ticker-tape parade here was in 2019 to celebrate the U.S. Women's Soccer Team after their World Cup win. The 130-plus-year tradition has commemorated John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, and Charles Lindbergh, the first solo pilot to fly nonstop from New York to Paris. But the heroes celebrated today aren't exactly famous. They're just beloved.

ROY TUMMINIA: Normally, we're looking at either a Super Bowl team or a World Series champ. And now, it's the workers who don't get the recognition that they truly deserve on a daily basis.

YI: Sanitation worker Roy Tumminia was one of the hundreds of essential workers gathered on floats that rolled down a mile-long stretch of Broadway in downtown Manhattan. Crowds of spectators cheered teachers, park workers, delivery drivers and doctors - everyday people who during the darkest days of the pandemic provided New York City a lifeline. They kept things moving, people fed and nursed many back to health - people like 60-year-old Robi Timargo, who is still recovering from COVID.

ROBI TIMARGO: I wanted to come out and support the people who saved my life.

YI: Shredded paper confetti filled the air, as did drum lines and bagpipers. Workers waved to their neighbors, family and sometimes their co-workers. Bill Bailey is a paramedic with Lenox Hill Hospital. Holding his arms wide, he couldn't stop smiling amid the cheers.

BILL BAILEY: I'm soaking it in. And I can't believe it's me walking down Broadway in a parade honoring me.

YI: Nurse Sharon Senior likened this parade to a deep collective exhale.

SHARON SENIOR: We are making progress, and I think that's what New York City needs, that sense of comfort and knowing that we were there for you and you are here for us now.

YI: It was Mayor Bill de Blasio who decided to hold the celebration, saying he wanted to show his appreciation for the city's workers now that the worst of the pandemic was behind them.

BILL DE BLASIO: Because before we did anything else in the way of celebrations in this city, we needed to thank the people who saw us through COVID.

YI: That included nurse Sandra Lindsay, who led the parade because she was the first person to receive the COVID vaccine. For NPR News, I'm Karen Yi in New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.