What New York lacked in crowds, it made up for in hope.
As the city reflected on a year it would love to forget the turn of the new year was marked with grief and grace.
The city prides itself in throwing the biggest New Year’s Eve party on the planet – the world invited – but the message this year was to stay away.
More than a million people stretched almost 20 blocks around Times Square last New Year’s Eve. This year just a few hundred people attended the famous ball drop by special invitation – many of them frontline workers.
One of those invited was Baldwin Davis who lost his twin brother to COVID 19.
The pair had worked together for 19 years patrolling Times Square. But Calvin died in April – just two months before their 50th birthday.
“I was in the house with my family and I felt something, I said ‘Calvin just died’ they said ‘don’t say that’ and five minutes later the doctor called,” said Baldwin.
“I believe if he had survived the first wave and caught it in the second wave he probably would have survived it. Because the first wave nobody knew how to treat it.”
More than 25,000 New Yorkers who brought in 2020 have died in the pandemic.
As one of the hardest hit cities on the planet, the legacy of COVID-19 is felt almost everywhere. The grief is raw and the safety measures strict.
Scientists and historians will study 2020 in the years to come but for New Yorkers who have lived the pandemic it will be defined by personal moments of loss and resilience.
Dr Calvin Sun had a harrowing year working in New York’s emergency departments.
Amidst the peak of the pandemic he lost his grandfather to COVID-19. For New Year Dr Sun volunteered to help with COVID tests for Times Square guests as light relief from what he still faces day to day.
“I’ve seen things that will give you nightmares for the rest of your life,” he said.
“What makes our experience unique here in New York City is we went through the worst of the worst in March and April but we also rebounded really quickly. And if people in the world can look to us right now, especially New Year’s Eve, not just to see a ball drop but New Yorkers coming together and realising in this small space we can work together to make the world more hopeful, that’s all I can want for 2021.”
The stroke of midnight will not cure coronavirus. America is still battling a fierce second wave. But vaccines we could have only dreamed of nine months ago are now being rolled out – albeit woefully slowly.
And with 2020 in the rear view mirror, there is a sense here of immense hope and relief.