NEW YORK — A pandemic would seem like the worst time to start working as a nurse in a Manhattan hospital, but there Justin Davis was last spring, trying desperately to help patients stricken with the coronavirus while worried for his own health.
The 43-year-old Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, resident was among those who stepped up to come to New York City when it was a pandemic epicenter, a choice that required leaving behind his wife and three young children for a situation filled with uncertainty and risk.
"I came because I wanted to do something to make my family proud," the military veteran said.
His family will get a chance to express their pride on Wednesday, along with a whole bunch of New Yorkers, at a parade honoring essential workers for their efforts in getting New York City through the pandemic.
"This is a huge thing," said his wife, Jennifer Davis. "This is awesome. We just had to come up here and be here for him, to support him and celebrate him."
Davis will be in the parade on a float sponsored by AMN Healthcare, the staffing company he works for that sent him to New York City and then other places around the country in the last year to work in COVID-swamped hospitals.
"I think it's just going to be real cool," Davis said. "And hopefully it can just bring closure."
The parade is slated to kick off at Battery Park and travel up Broadway in lower Manhattan, the iconic stretch known as the Canyon of Heroes, which has hosted parades honoring world leaders, celebrities and winning sports teams. The last parade before the pandemic honored the U.S. women's soccer team after their 2019 World Cup win.
City officials said the parade's grand marshal would be Sandra Lindsay, a health care worker who was the first person in the country to get a COVID vaccine shot.
Other workers being honored include transportation workers, first responders, education and child care providers, and utility workers.
"We've got a lot to appreciate, because we're well underway in our recovery. We've got a lot to celebrate and we've got a lot of people to celebrate," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.
"They deserve a march down the Canyon of Heroes, because it's something that is reserved for the greatest folks in history. Well, here are some of the folks who made history in New York City's toughest hour," he said.
The high temperatures of the week have cut into the celebration plans somewhat. Originally, the parade had been scheduled to be followed by a ceremony at City Hall.
Instead, the mayor and his wife will applaud the participants at the end of the parade route. Water will be available through the route and cooling stations for participants will be located at the beginning and end.