In mid-May, as the coronavirus pandemic raged in New York, the Heralds undertook what became a monumental project to feature each week the front-line heroes who were — and are — keeping us safe and providing for our daily sustenance — doctors, nurses, EMTs, firefighters, supermarket employees and sanitation workers.
Every week through November, we published 16 Hometown Heroes — 444 in all — encouraging them to describe in their own words their harrowing, and sometimes horrifying, experiences. They told stories of death and job loss, mourning and fear. At the same time, they demonstrated resilience in the face of unbearable hardship and kindness to desperate strangers.
They spoke of our shared humanity at a time of collective tragedy.
Last week, we wound down the series, publishing our final set of 16 Heroes in our Thanksgiving Day issue, a fitting way to end it. We are so grateful to so many people who have kept our society and our economy moving during this crisis.
We began the series focusing primarily on health care workers, but we expanded it over time to include teachers and principals, custodians and business owners, and many, many people who formed ad hoc organizations and small nonprofits to address the needs of their neighbors during the pandemic.
This week, we feature our stories — those of editors and reporters who, at the beginning of the crisis, were deemed essential workers by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and since then have provided readers with the vital, fact-based information necessary to keep them and their families safe.
We have often risked our own health to report not only on the pandemic, but also on the massive social and political protests that have erupted across Nassau County this year. Yes, we wore masks in the field. Yes, we maintained social distancing — or tried our best to do so. Still, in the backs of our minds, we had to live with the persistent thought that any time we were in the field reporting, we could have been infected.
No doubt, 2020 has been a year like no other, for journalists, too.