INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Public safety officials from more than 20 agencies across Indiana gathered Wednesday to honor another group of Hoosiers tasked with saving lives: health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
First responders led a parade of fire trucks, ambulances and police units outside Community Hospital North to thank doctors, nurses, technicians and other hospital staff for their tireless efforts.
“It’s really heroes honoring heroes,” a bystander said, waving at the public safety officials in uniform and the medical professionals in scrubs.
Initial plans for the parade involved “only a handful” of local agencies, according to Lawrence Fire Department Chief Dino Batalis, but quickly “snowballed” into an unprecedented display of gratitude.
The 24 fire, EMS and law enforcement agencies that participated Wednesday had previously never collaborated on a community event of this scale, Batalis said.
“It’s just a simple ‘thank you’ to the health care workers,” he told News 8.
The “simple” gesture was met with an outpouring of emotion. Dozens of health care workers stood outside and cheered as the parade made its way toward Community Hospital North.
“Oh my gosh, it was phenomenal,” said Dr. Dee Moonesinghe, the hospital’s physician executive. “It was nothing we could have prepared for. It was overwhelmingly phenomenal.”
A group of nurses held handmade signs thanking the public safety officials saluting their profession. One sign, written on a sheet of printer paper, made a statement with seven letters and two hearts: “IFD ROCKS.”
Dorothy Campbell, 4, nearly disappeared behind a larger sign decorated with hand-drawn flowers and balloons.
Orange letters on the sheet of poster board read, “Thank you!”
When asked who she was thanking, Dorothy answered without missing a beat, “Mommy!”
“She works in the hospital for the patients,” she told News 8, pointing at her mother and smiling.
Molly Campbell, the director of inpatient geriatric care at Community Hospital North, grew emotional as the public safety procession made its way past her family.
“The teams are working so hard,” Molly said. “It just is so great to see the support. It’s very emotional. But just thanks and gratitude for everything everyone’s doing.”
Josh Barker, deputy chief at the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD), offered a “hat tip” to the parade organizers who took a “small idea” and orchestrated a show of support “beyond anything we expected.”
Melissa Jude, a Community Hospital North employee, was a key organizer within the hospital, her colleagues said.
“Never underestimate my ability to throw a good party,” she said, laughing.
Her smile faded and she grew serious when asked if she felt people outside the health care community understood the challenges she and her colleagues faced amid the pandemic.
“Not at all,” Jude said. “Because I don’t think they’d be wanting to reopen things as soon as they are if they had a good idea [of what we’re going through].”