PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — It was a grand gesture of gratitude in Paterson, as the community came together on Labor Day to honor first responders.

Live music, lunch and so much more were set up in the heart of the city as a “thank you” to those who got us through the worst of COVID-19, like Paterson Fire Department Deputy Chief Matthew Hyman.

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“I worked a lot. There were no days off. It was tough, I have kids at home,” he told CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock.

Battalion Chief Arthur Woods also had a 3-year-old and 5-month-old at home.

“We have a job to do as first responders. Whether we’re fighting fires, diseases, we know at the end of the day if the public needs us, we need to be there for them,” he said.

Traveling nurse Andrea Teal came to Paterson in April to help fight COVID-19.

“When I was at home, my first idea was to stay home with my family,” she said.

She couldn’t ignore the pleas for help.

“‘Can anyone help? Can anyone come and help us here?’ It was hard as a registered nurse to stay at home,” she said.


Labor Day typically involves quality time with her family, but not this year.

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“I’m lonely, but I met nice friends here, came for a good purpose,” said Teal.

With those new friends by her side, she enjoyed the outpouring of gratitude from the community she served.

“It’s Labor Day. Over the last six months, there were people who could not stay home. We were telling people to stay home, stay safe… These are the people keeping us safe on the frontlines,” Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh said.

Operation Ceasefire organized the Labor Day luncheon to say “thank you” to all first responders. The group is a collaboration between the city, police department and non-profits to stop the next shooting.

“Ceasefire is about quality of life issues,” said James Staton, president of Operation Ceasefire. “We want our community and our city to understand that they’re cared for and about from the mayor’s office to the inner city.”

Staton said the day was about first responders and letting them know how much they’re appreciated.

“For the cashiers, 911 operators, for funeral directors,” Executive Administrator Winnie Harrison said. “Anyone that worked through the pandemic, we are here to say we support them.”

The mayor also handed out lawn signs for first responders to proudly display in front of their homes.

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