Staying home, giving thanks

As Americans retreat indoors during the coronavirus pandemic, shut-in New Yorkers give nightly ovations for those working on the front lines. These are their portraits.

New Yorkers are known for demonstrating a certain brand of defiance and grit when brought to their knees. In the United States, New York City has been hit the hardest by the coronavirus outbreak, again becoming ground zero in a national tragedy.

In Manhattan, the streets are desolate as residents remain in quarantine. Doors to shops and stores are locked, lights off, but hospital doors remain open and staffed with nurses and doctors on their second or third shifts. Many retired medical professionals have also returned to work, to harm’s way.

The word “crisis” doesn’t seem to fit anymore. Most of us know someone who has been affected by COVID-19. Some have endured the pain of losing a friend or loved one.

But at 7 p.m. in New York, neighborhoods across the city share a moment of recognition during a challenging time. Residents open their windows and man fire escapes to collectively celebrate the hard work and selfless dedication of first responders at the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pots and pans, bells, chimes, whistles, hoots and hollers, a trombone, a vuvuzela, citizens singing at the top of their lungs — the sound of gratitude mixed with pure emotion fills otherwise empty and quiet city blocks.

NYC isn’t known for its neighborly cheer, but neighbors are waving hello to each other from one side of the street to the other — something you don’t see every day in this city. A simple wave, a friendly gesture at an acceptable distance, seems to ever-so-slightly restore that sense of normality.

Shop owners and restaurant workers, among the many whose place of work is locked or boarded up, are coming together in solidarity.

Outside Mount Sinai Morningside, a hospital in upper Manhattan, New York City firefighters surprise nurses with Easter baskets full of candy. They express their thanks and send well-wishes.

“Our nerves are higher than ever,” says Patricia Campbell, a nurse of over 41 years. “So when this happens, seeing everyone come together, it’s really nice.”