There was an emotional ceremony at Honoré-Mercier Elementary School in Montreal’s east end Tuesday morning, as students and staff paid tribute to front-line workers from the area for their work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
A group of east end health-care workers were among those given a plaque and a spirited round of applause during a ceremony in the school gym.
“I think it’s beautiful. I think that it’s actually the first time that I’ve been part of a ceremony where they’re thanking us,” said Dr. Tania Decobellis, an ER doctor at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital and president of the governing board at Pierre-de-Coubertin School.
Just over a year into the pandemic, three different elementary schools in Saint-Leonard teamed up for the special assembly.
Many of the students at Dante Elementary School, Honoré Mercier and Pierre-de-Coubertin have parents directly involved in the fight against the virus.
“We decided to show our appreciation and give them thanks,” said Sonia Marotta, the principal of Honoré Mercier.
Officers from the local fire and police stations were also among those honoured and thanked for their work.
“It doesn’t happen that much,” said Const. Julie Mazerolle, who works at station 42 just a few blocks from the school. “It is nice today to be here, especially coming from the kids in the school. It was a really nice thought from them.”
While a gym full of kids was not possible, a group got to perform for the front-line workers. Students at all three schools watched the proceedings on a livestream.
“I’m really proud of my school for doing this for our front-line workers, because they worked so hard this year,” said Clara Di Marco, a Grade 6 student at Honoré Mercier. “They’ve lost people, their own family, and yet they continue every day to risk their own lives for us.”
A moment that profoundly touched the whole room was a speech by Tony Lacroce, whose son works at Honoré-Mercier.
He spoke of how his own elderly parents both had their lives cut short by COVID-19, and how in their waning days at a long-term care home they asked for comfort foods like espresso.
“My cousin Rosie brought them espresso, and I’m forever indebted,” he said through tears, explaining that he couldn’t go to their facility because his grandchildren were living with him at the time.
“It really stuck with me after,” said Di Marco.
“It’s important to celebrate each other, you know. You just don’t know when when someone goes,” Lacroce said in an interview.
The ceremony was also a time to honour school staff and the students themselves for all their hard work to keep each other safe during a very hard year.