Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday that 70% of adults in New York had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, a milestone that places New York toward the top of the list of vaccinated states. Although critics have claimed that the numbers are somewhat skewed—the 70% doesn’t take into account the overall population (12 to 17-year-olds, and communities of color are still lagging behind greatly)—Cuomo pressed ahead with lifting the vast majority of New York’s coronavirus restrictions and safety measures. And while back in my day, political leaders had the dignity to hoist a banner reading “Mission Accomplished” when they wanted to declare victory after only partially finishing a task, Cuomo decided to go a different route: surprise fireworks.
To be fair, the “surprise” element of the fireworks was somewhat dulled when news leaked early Tuesday morning before it was formally announced in the afternoon, but that didn’t stop a lot of people from comparing them to the 30 Rock joke about a fireworks TV special.
The celebratory fireworks took place at ten sites around the state starting at 9:15 p.m. on Tuesday; that included Jones Beach on Long Island and right here in New York Harbor. In addition, 13 locations were lit up in blue and gold, including the Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, Grand Central Terminal, East End Gateway at Penn Station, and the Kosciuszko Bridge.
Still, there is no denying that this was a significant symbolic moment for New Yorkers after the past 15+ months. There is a palpable sense of relief and joy spreading across the city, which was in abundance among those who went out to watch the fireworks last night.
Fireworks across New York State tonight, celebrating the 70% adult vaccination milestone.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) June 16, 2021
Some 400+ days ago I posted a video from a roof in the WV of people in the city clapping as a thank you to all our healthcare heroes. Today, as a thank you to them, and to celebrate a lifting of all restrictions in NYS, I watched fireworks over NY Harbor… we’re back. #Nystrong https://t.co/iHsmHVx63U pic.twitter.com/Fz834w4xH9
— Chas Pressner (@cjpressner) June 16, 2021
“I can’t believe I’m here,” one woman says in the below video. “I had coronavirus, I spent 10 days alone in my room, and I’m just soaking in this moment, and soaking in all the people here.”
“I lost a lot of close people to COVID, so a year later, this is really, really crazy, this is a beautiful thing to see,” chimed in her friend. “It’s really emotional. There’s a lot of people who aren’t here to see this, and it’s amazing to se this many bodies, and everyone here has their own story or experience and has been touched by it in some way.”