Queens nurse honored at White House, named grand marshal of city’s Hometown Heroes Parade

Biden holds a naturalization ceremony at the White House in Washington
Queens critical care nurse Sandra Lindsay was honored by President Joe Biden at the White House on the same day she was named grand marshal of the city’s Hometown Heroes parade. (Photo via REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

A Queens critical care nurse, who became famous in December as the first person in the United States to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, had quite a Friday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that Sandra Lindsay will serve as the grand marshal of the city’s Hometown Heroes Parade up the Canyon of Heroes on Wednesday, July 7, beginning at 11 a.m. The parade, which will honor all the essential workers who brought New York City through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, will feature 14 different floats, making it one of the largest ticker tape parades in the city’s history, according to the mayor.

“It is truly an honor and privilege to serve as the grand marshal in the Hometown Heroes ticker tape parade and represent all health care and essential workers whose heroic efforts saved lives during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Lindsay said.

Born and raised in Jamaica, the West Indies, Lindsay moved to the United States in 1986. She serves as the director of nursing critical care at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Medical Center, where she was the first to volunteer to take the inoculation during one of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s press events on Dec. 14.

After Lindsay received the first Pfizer shot, she made a memorable statement that helped launch New York state’s vaccination effort.

Lindsay became a national figure when she volunteered to become the first person in the United States to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination. (Courtesy of the governor’s office)

“Governor Cuomo, I’m feeling well. I would like to thank all the frontline workers, all my colleagues, who’ve been doing a yeoman’s job throughout this pandemic all over the world. I am hopeful. I feel, I hope today, relieved,” Lindsay said. “I feel like healing is coming and this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history. I want to instill public confidence that the vaccine is safe. We’re in a pandemic and so we all need to do your part to put an end to the pandemic, and to not give up so soon. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we still need to continue to wear our masks, to social distance. I believe in science. As a nurse, my practice is guided by science and so I trust that. What I don’t trust is that, if I contract COVID, I don’t know how it would impact or those who I come in contact with, so I encourage everyone to take the vaccine.”

After Lindsay leads the parade through the Canyon of Heroes, Mayor de Blasio will hold a ceremony at City Hall Park to publicly thank the 260 different groups of essential workers including hospital, healthcare, first responders, small businesses and bodegas, education and childcare, advocacy organizations, communications and delivery.

“The Summer of New York City is underway, and the beating heart of our recovery is the gratitude and respect we all share for the essential workers who brought this city out of a crisis,” de Blasio said. “This celebration will honor all those who fought through adversity and unprecedented challenges to keep New Yorkers safe. I can’t wait to celebrate alongside them.”

Lindsay’s Friday was capped off by a White House ceremony hosted by President Joe Biden where she was recognized as an “Outstanding American by Choice,” a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services program that recognizes citizens who have been naturalized.

Before he swore in dozens of immigrants as new U.S. citizens during the East Room celebration, Biden called on Lindsay to receive a proclamation. The president chronicled how she arrived in Queens as an 18-year-old, got her college degree at CUNY, a degree in nursing, a master’s degree and then her doctorate, and then Biden had a special announcement.

“Sandra’s vaccination card and hospital scrubs and the badge she wore will be included in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History exhibit on COVID-19,” Biden said. “Sandra, thank you for representing the very best of us.”