A child's poster expresses thanks to hospital workers in april 2020. Courtesy photo: Peconic Bay Medical Center/Samantha Vigliotta

The coronavirus pandemic made me appreciate more than ever the people who during the pandemic came to be known as essential workers.

What they do is usually invisible for most of us — out of sight and out of mind. And the work they do took on new meaning for me during the dark times of 2020 and 2021.

I’d like to take a moment today to express my thanks for the people who serve and protect us each and every day, the people who make our communities places we cherish.

Thank you to our police, who do a tough, often thankless, job, day in and day out. They put their lives on the line to protect us from those who would do us harm. Very often, they put themselves at risk to protect us — or rescue us — from our own stupidity and selfish behavior. When there is someone in need in our community, their response is swift, professional and competent.

Thank you to our EMS, who answer our calls for help all day and night, in all kinds of weather, seven days a week, 365 days a year. If you’ve ever had a medical emergency and needed to call an ambulance, you know how fast, professional and caring these folks are. If you haven’t — well, first be grateful, but know you can rest easy because when you do need them, they’ll be there for you. Volunteering their time and talent, they answer thousands of calls every year and save many, many lives. Maybe the next one will be yours or someone you love.

Thank you to our volunteer firefighters. These men and women, like the police and EMS, are professional, competent and ever-ready. They react instinctively to rush into dangerous situations, putting themselves in peril, to save the lives of total strangers. They rush to the scene of horrible crashes to extract victims with the “jaws of life” from a tangled wreckage. Their swift response protects and saves our families, our homes and businesses, our public places. They are always there for us, no matter what.

Thank you to the doctors, nurses, aides and staff members of our hospitals and clinics, who are there for us around the clock, to heal our ills, bind our wounds and cure our diseases. They provide top-notch care for us right here in our community.

Thank you to the nurses, aides and workers who care for the elderly and infirm at nursing homes in our community.

These folks, recognized during the pandemic as lifesaving “health care heroes” have been to hell and back. The thank-you parades have ended, but their selfless work continues — as does our collective debt of gratitude.

Thank you to our teachers and school administrators, who endure incredibly difficult circumstances as they educate our children and help prepare the next generation for college, careers and citizenship. Theirs is an awesome responsibility and they undertake it with professionalism, dedication, compassion and — most importantly — love. The pandemic rocked their world in a unique and extremely trying way and these professionals are still working hard to pick up the pieces and move ahead with their core mission.

Thank you to our civil servants. People certainly like to rag on government workers. But their efforts keep our communities running smoothly and help make the rest of us live comfortable lives. From the people who work to keep our roads repaired and plowed to the people who make sure we have clean water to drink, and the folks who make sure we have the luxury of pressing a handle to flush our waste away, with no further thought. I’m thankful there are people who think about what happens next.

Thank you to the countless volunteers of all walks of life who give up their personal time to serve others and serve their communities in ways far too numerous to list. They volunteer at local hospitals and food pantries and animal shelters. They run the local blood drives. They serve as Scout leaders, coaches and mentors. They serve the needy by running a soup kitchen or sheltering the homeless. Volunteers are the lifeblood of our community.

Last but not least, thank you to the men and women in military service at home and overseas, who are separated from their families on this among many holidays and special life events, who serve with focused dedication to keeping America safe and preserving our freedom and way of life. Thank you to their families for their sacrifice and strength.

Thank you for your service, dedication and caring. Wishing you all a happy, safe (and quiet) Thanksgiving.

Note: Some of this column was adapted from one I wrote in 2018, in the pre-pandemic bubble I comfortably occupied. Coronavirus changed so many things about our world and how we live our lives. It deepened my gratitude for these essential workers.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.