We have lived in our apartment since I was two months pregnant with our son Charlie. It’s on a quiet street in Long Island City. We don’t really know our neighbors well but this pandemic has helped us form a connection with many that would of never happened otherwise.
Our apartment windows face the street behind us, which houses a combo of old New York apartment buildings and the new New York, modern luxury apartments that are horribly overpriced.
The restaurant I work at was able to form a connection with a local website that is raising money to feed hospital staff and front line workers within our community. This is happening all over the city. People have donated thousands of dollars to these organizations that have only one goal in mind: fuel the front line the best way they can, with food. It’s also an amazing way to help support local restaurants during their darkest days.
One night, I had to make a delivery to our local hospital, Mt. Sinai, Queens. With Charlie’s Dad working nights while I worked days, I had no choice but to bring Charlie along for the delivery. Charlie and I arrived at the hospital right at 7pm, when the “clap” was happening. Each night at 7pm, it’s shift change at hospitals across the city, and every since late March, people open their windows, pause mid-step and show their appreciation for essential workers. Cars honk their horns. People ring bells, kids bang pots and pans. I even heard air horns were making an appearance in some parts of Astoria.
While we were at Mt. Sinai, nurses and staff came out of the building and waved and received the applause. A cop car from the local precinct showed up, flashed its lights, the doors opened and Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York blasted from the speakers.
We dropped off the food and Charlie and I talked about why everyone was clapping for the workers. He wasn’t really interested, but a fire was lit in me. The next night, we walked to the hospital to do the clap in person again. I was hoping the police car would show up for an encore so I could capture it on video, but no dice. We walked home again, talking about the importance of showing our appreciate for all Essential Workers. Again, he didn’t really seem interested.
The night after that, I had an idea. I was so moved by the police car showing up and playing that song, that I wanted to do the same. I thought about driving to the hospital and blasting a song from our car, but the street the hospital is on is a pretty busy one and I was worried about blasting the music with Charlie in the car. So, I grabbed our speaker (Eric has a pretty decent boom box that he spent too much money on), and I placed it at our window.
At 7pm, we opened our window and clapped like crazy. At 7:02, I played Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind”. It was cloudy and cold. The song was slow and sweet, and powerful. I don’t know if anyone heard it or cared, but it made me cry. The weight of what we are enduring hit me like a ton of bricks. The people dying, people in the city suffering, and all the Essential Workers doing their part to keep the city going was overwhelming.
Ever since that night, we’ve clapped at 7pm and at 7:02 we play another song. Our audience has grown with many coming out on their fire escapes and balconies. See our playlist on Spotify here. Charlie bangs a pot with a wooden spoon (both heirlooms from my parents), I still cry sometimes, but most nights I’m more concerned about whether or not the crowd will cheer at the end of our song, approving my selection for the evening.
I don’t know how long this clap will go on, but we’ll keep doing it. It makes me feel like we are contributing a little something during this Pandemic that gives people hope. At least the people who can hear our song.
To learn more about the organization we worked with, head to http://www.gofundme.com/f/GiveMeAstoriaReliefFund and consider donating if you can. They have done tremendous work for not only the healthcare workers in our community, but the restaurants that are struggling to survive this pandemic.