With a ticker-tape parade Wednesday, New York honored its everyday "heroes" who kept the city going through the pandemic and who now hope for recognition that's more than just symbolic.
Hundreds of essential workers marched down the southern stretch of Broadway in Manhattan known as the "Canyon of Heroes," where parades honoring astronauts, heads of state and sports champions have occurred since the 19th century.
Leading the way in the back of a limousine was nurse Sandra Lindsay, who became the first person in the United States to receive a vaccine shot against Covid-19 in mid-December.
Between marching bands and under confetti, groups of doctors, caregivers, delivery men, public transport workers and food bank employees and others marched as onlookers cheered and held placards that read "Thank you."
In the crowd, Brooklyn resident Sara Cavolo relished the celebration, which comes as New York emerges from the pandemic following an aggressive vaccination drive that saw all restrictions lifted recently.
"It's a trauma we've all kind of gone through," said the 38-year-old, who works in marketing.
"It really hits home the fact that now we're coming back out of this and reemerging, we've made it. It feels just very good to celebrate," she told AFP.
America's economic and cultural capital paid a heavy price in the pandemic, losing 33,000 residents.
Cavolo, who lives near a hospital, still remembers "the trucks that were mobile morgues" in spring 2020, when New York was the epicenter of the country's outbreak.
"It was very heavy for a lot of us," she recalled.
Many residents of a city still traumatized turned out to show their gratitude to those that kept the Big Apple running through one of its darkest times.
"These unrecognized every days workers literally saved our lives," said Melinda Mlinac, holding a sign calling for better wages and benefits for those who kept working during the lockdowns.
"It's a very happy moment, because from all of their efforts and the vaccine, we're here, we're here to celebrate this.
"But never forget these people that took the subways when it was dangerous, all the pre-vax work that these people did for us.
"Food delivery (companies), Amazon, these companies have to recognize that and have to give them benefits," she implored.
Inside the barriers, the marchers carried placards bearing their demands.
"More nurses = better care," read that of caregivers, "Stop the Fines" said those carried by street food vendors, while subway workers called for risk pay.
All legitimate claims, according to doctor Yomaris Pena.
"They are the true heroes,"she said.
"Some of them couldn't say no to go to work, like bus drivers, the people that were driving the subways, the people who were cleaning the hospitals, the grocery workers. We don't think about them."
"It's the beginning of acknowledging and rewarding what they have done," she said.