There is no doubt that 2020 has been a year of immeasurable grief and of hardship.
The COVID-19 pandemic has robbed millions of people of their loved ones and permanently altered the lives of many more. But through all the hardship, fear, and loss, there have been individuals — heroes both big and small — who have brought hope, comfort, and inspiration.
We asked Boston.com readers to tell us who has been their hero during 2020, and scores wrote in to share words of gratitude and praise for the people who have helped uplift them during the difficult moments of the year.
A few public officials, including President Donald Trump, President-elect Joe Biden, and Gov. Charlie Baker received notable call-outs from readers.
“Initially distraught with the presidential abandonment at the start of pandemic [but] rose to the challenges, organized the biggest and best statewide response to COVID,” Nina, from Randolph, wrote of Baker. “Made extremely hard decisions in the best interest of keeping people safe. So glad he is my Governor.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and most trusted health expert in the country, was the public figure most frequently singled out as a hero in 2020 by readers:
“He keeps telling us the information no matter who doesn’t want to hear it! He’s like the energizer bunny. He keeps going and going.” — Sue, Jamaica Plain
“Thank you for standing strong and steadfastly serving as the voice of reason in the face of great adversity from the highest levels of government during these very troubling times.” — Geri, Boston
“He educated me about COVID-19, the impact of it, the best ways to prevent transmission and how to protect ourselves. His message was truthful, honest, and understandable.” — Jackie, Carlisle
“Dr. Anthony Fauci — a calm, resolute hero who kept us informed and looked after our best interests. Thank you.” — Ben, Cambridge
“Dr. Anthony Fauci, for working so hard to protect people with factual information while being undermined daily by those around him.” — Brian, Westminster
“Thank you for being a reliable source of COVID-19 information.” — Carol, Amesbury
“Thank you for your service to humankind.” — Ruth, Quincy
Voters and election workers also got special mentions from readers:
“The voters of the United States who voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. They have saved our democracy, our constitution and our liberty.” — Charles, Nashua, NH
“Every electoral college official, every government elected, appointed, and staff workers that affirmed the correct and accurate presidential vote count in spite of being threatened … They should be awarded the ‘badge of courage’ for doing the right thing. Thank you true ‘Americans.’” — Anonymous
But hands-down, readers agreed that health care professionals and other essential, front line workers are the heroes we should all be grateful for in 2020 — for their dedication, efforts, and courage during a year that demanded so much of them.
Below, see the notes of thanks shared by readers — calling out colleagues, loved ones, and members of their communities who they say were their heroes in 2020.
Messages to health care and essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic
“My 2020 heroes are all the front line workers. Their jobs are not just regular jobs, they are taking care of people, especially since family members can’t be there to comfort them. These people are very special and deserve all the praise we can give them.” — Marcus, Milford
“Healthcare workers, grocery store workers, pharmacy workers, MBTA workers, mailmen, teachers, folks who deliver my food, and everyone who wears a mask. THANK YOU!” — Lisa, Boston
“All my friends in health care. None of them complained about the mental and physical strain that was put on them throughout this crazy year. They are the true heroes.” — Allison, Medford
“My heroes of 2020 are the staff at the long-term care facility where my Dad, who just celebrated his 90th birthday, is a resident. My Dad amazingly recovered from COVID last March, but as in all nursing homes, not all residents were so lucky. The nurses, CNAs, activities staff, occupational therapists, food service workers, cleaning staff, and administrative staff have done a spectacular job keeping the facility as safe as possible and the residents’ spirits up, all while risking their own lives and health by coming to work each day. I am extremely grateful to all of them for their service during this terrible health crisis.” –– Jennifer, Beverly
“My 2020 heroes are the essential workers. My co-workers at MGH and Dedham Public Schools. My MGH peers and my DPS peers came together during this unprecedented time and have led the way in direct patient care, guidance, support of those affected by COVID-19 and those who just need a helping hand. The essential worker at the supermarket, the delivery drivers, the drug store employees, group home workers, the EMTs, fire and police personnel. Thank you all for your sacrifice, bravery and kindness.” — Nancy, Dedham
“All the doctors and nurses here at my hospital, BILH Milton. Their compassion and care is like no other. Wearing PPE all day with no breaks from the pandemic. Thank you all for everything you do for our patients and co-workers.” — Mark
“I would like to salute and thank all of my nursing colleagues along with the doctors, food services, environmental services, building and grounds, and the countless others who kept MGH running. You are all amazing and I’m so proud of all of you and so proud to be part of this institution. I’d also like to recognize the grocery store clerks, the post office, UPS, FedEx, truckers, and all the other essential workers. It’s not the Wall Street-types that kept this country moving — it’s all of you and you are all heroes. While the Biden/Harris ticket did make history, all of you deserved the cover of Time’s Person of the Year. Thank you.” — Linda
“I am grateful for all those ‘who didn’t have to…but did.’ Those that went above and beyond! Working in the COVID ICU is hard. Some nights are better than others. Great nurses and doctors make it a lot easier, for sure! But some gave 110% Some went above and beyond! To the nurse who got suited up again to answer the alarm in my COVID-positive room … you didn’t have to, but you did. To the nurse who showed up to help, without even being asked… you didn’t have to, but you did. To all the nurses who came running when my patient was in trouble… you didn’t have to, but you did. To the nurse who knew I needed a cup of coffee and delivered it… you didn’t have to, but you did. To the aide who always says, ‘don’t worry, I got this’… you didn’t have to, but you did. To the doctor who suited up to help turn my very heavy COVID-positive patient… you didn’t have to, but you did. To the doctor who treated us to a fabulous Mexican dinner… you didn’t have to, but you did. To the doctor who saw us in a COVID-positive room for hours and said, ‘Thank you!’… you didn’t have to, but you did. And to the friends who texted, dropped off extra N95s and sent a Dunkin’ Donuts gift card… you didn’t have to, but you did. To the best kids in the world who made cookies and sent in food from Pats (OMG)… you didn’t have to, but you did. Finally, to the man who puts up with me (friends call him a saint!)… you don’t have to, but you do! Thank you.” — Roberta, Dorchester
“Friends and former colleagues at MGH and BCH: Your courage, stoic determination, comfort, and care during the most fraught and uncertain of times is humbling, and all of Massachusetts is incredibly proud of you.” — Maureen, Manchester-by-the-Sea
“To the amazing scientists and biopharma industry for collaborating and delivering innovation in record time. No one does it better than the US! Time to give scientists and the industry the praise it deserves. It will change people’s lives forever!” — Anonymous
“Those scientists who developed this new approach to combating viruses using DNA gene sequencing. Brilliant and 94 to 95% effective.” — Lorraine, Sandwich
Messages of gratitude to individuals
“My daughter’s 6th grade teachers at Melrose Veteran’s Middle School in Melrose, MA. Ms.Weber, Ms.O’Brien, Ms.Grillo, and Ms.Corbett.” — Rachel, Melrose
“My heroines are my mother, Kim, who is a nurse at BMC and my girlfriend, Caitlin, who is a dental hygienist. They are at high risk of COVID exposure every day but they wake up and go to work without any complaints. I am proud to love these strong and devoted women. The humility of these heroines is an example of every young woman growing up in New England.” — Chris, West Bridgewater
“Dr. Ahmet Uluer and his staff at the Adult Cystic Fibrosis clinic at Boston’s Children’s Hospital are my heroes. To them I say, ‘Thanks for the weekly then bi-weekly meetings through these tough days. Your forthright information and kind manner will be legendary as we hopefully climb together out of this pandemic. You didn’t have to do this after your long days in the hospital, but you connected on Zoom with a scared group of people. Thank you all so much.’” — Cheryl
“Dr. Ahmet Uluer and every single staff member at the CF Clinic at Children’s Hospital/Brigham and Woman’s Hospital Combined Program. For your loving care and always being there for me.” — Laura, Brighton
“My niece, a nurse at Beth Israel Boston. She actually worked there every summer before graduating and then stayed as a cardiac nurse. Now with three children in tow and a husband and a hike of an hour each way, she jumped right into the COVID section in March, immediately learning the only thing she didn’t know, opening airways like anesthesia nurses. She works COVID, raises and remotely teaches her 9, 7, and 5 year olds. She is my hero … She’s my everything.” — Debra
“My 2020 hero is my boyfriend, Taeju. My family is all from Connecticut, so I have not been able to go home and see them often this year like I normally would due to travel restrictions. He has been there to support me and keep me company throughout these challenging times. Thank you for making things a little easier and putting a smile on my face!” — Allison, Boston
“I have two heroes for 2020. Karen Nascembeni of Lynnfield. A Google search will tell you her story. Grace in the midst of unimaginable loss. Elizabeth Pickering of Brookline. She has spent the past several months making sweet and savory goodies that were then delivered to folks who were inside trying to stay safe.” –– Eddie, Brookline
“My dog. He has been great company during the pandemic.” — Tony, Methuen
“My hero is my sister, Sharon, a nurses aide who has seen so much despair, has worked extra hours, and has never ceased to provide exceptional care and nurturing to the terrified patients at the nursing home where she works. Nursing homes were one of the first places to be overrun with COVID cases before we even really understood what was happening. She was terrified, exhausted, and emotionally raw as she witnessed death and decline happening at a very rapid pace. But Sharon kept showing up, often taking extra shifts and staying later each day. She LOVES her patients. She is known for putting music on and singing with them to cheer them up. She can also be seen painting a patient’s fingernails or doing someone’s hair into a new hairdo. My sister is special. She’s an angel. And I am certain her patients think of her as a hero. I know I do.” — Valerie, Hull
“My wife is my hero. She works as a nurse in an ER in a Boston hospital, and we just had our first baby in 12/2020. She has stuck by me while I finished law school and passed the bar exam in 2/2020. This has has been rough, but she has been my guiding light.” — Peter, Weymouth
“My parents! Both are over 65 and still go into work. I worry about them, but my mom’s a social worker and can’t not help people, and my father works in IT and keeps the networks up and running.” — Abra, Cambridge
“My mother. After retiring from full time at Metrowest Medical Center in Framingham as a radiology technologist, she has stayed on working in the ER on overnight weekend shifts. She has said this is the worst thing she has witnessed in over 30 years of working in the hospital. She said if there was a second wave she would give up these shifts, but of course she has not and will stay on. Barbara DeMauro of Wayland is my hero!” — Christine, Framingham
“My sister, Barbara DeMauro, a radiology technologist at Metrowest Framingham. Instead of retiring, she has been working the weekend night shift throughout the pandemic. She takes great care of her patients, herself and husband with several co-morbidities. Barbara is our family hero.” — Ellen, New York City
“My 2020 hero is my brother Matt. He is a police officer, during a time when being a police officer means you’re the enemy, even if you aren’t. Despite the constant hatred towards the police lately, he has still gone in every day and night to protect and serve the people of his community. Lately it seems that people have forgotten that police are first responders, just like fire fighters and healthcare workers. They put their life on the line every day they go to work and never know what any situation will bring. So to my big brother Matthew, I want to say, ‘Thank you.’ Thank you for doing your job in a time when the world is against you, and thank you for all that you do to keep our community safe.” — Kristen, Stoneham
“Two of my family members are heroes. One of my sisters has been on the front line of COVID; in the ICU for months and is a nurse educator/manager at a major Boston hospital. She has been at the forefront of training colleagues, comforting dying COVID patients, and lifting the spirits of her coworkers with her positive spirit. My other sister has been working with her students with special needs on the front line doing in-person learning; providing her students with her patience, expertise, and positive energy. We owe all of our front line medical personnel and our educators a deep debt of gratitude. My sisters are just exemplary examples of each. THANK YOU to all the frontline workers who selflessly are doing their jobs. I am a citizen who truly appreciates each of their efforts in these trying times. They exemplify the best of our society.” — Karen, Medfield
“My 2020 hero(es) are the team who run the Ronald McDonald House here on the Navy Yard: Wayne, Ellen, Rachel, and Sarah. They reopened the house with safe rules and regulations and now have a full house of families who are here to have medical treatments for their kids. They have done everything in their power to be of support and comfort to the families who come from all over during this most stressful time. They serve and protect in every sense of the word — they also provide a community, yes — and even some joy at the holidays. They are my idols and my heroes. Thank you!” — Tracy and Dennis, Charlestown
“My 2020 hero is my older sister, Maura Ford. She has been a critical care nurse for about 15 years, and she became a nurse practitioner halfway through 2020. She is also a mom to two young boys and has handled 2020 with more strength and grace than anyone. She works on the front lines of the pandemic, did remote learning with her kids, and achieved being an NP in the same year. I don’t know how she juggles everything, but she makes it look easy!” — Sheila, West Roxbury
“Maura Dowling, RN, BS, NCSN is my 2020 unsung HERO! When I had the unfortunate situation of contracting COVID-19 in April 2020, she was there for me in so many ways. Maura is a Hanover School RN who was working/volunteering at the time for DPH; Partners in Health as a Contact Tracing RN. There was little known about the virus during this time. I was fighting a battle in uncharted waters, and she became my lifeline. I was scared, and Maura was there to educate and support me and my family along the way. She truly became my trustworthy ‘virtual’ companion in this lonely fight at the time, since there was little known about the virus and how best to treat it. She was there for me, and I hope she realizes she was a ‘difference maker’ to me! With much admiration and thanks to Maura Dowling!” — Lisa and family, Hanover
“My 2020 hero is my wife, Michela Capobianco, who has home-schooled my four kids under age of 4 with grace and patience. She cooks, cleans, and puts up with my travel schedule for work, and, most of all, does it with love and a smile on her face. I know there are many other moms and dads that resemble her profile, but she’s unique to our family.” — Matthew, Winchester
“My 2020 hero is Chuck Yeager, who just passed away on December 7, 2020 at the age of 97. He was the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound, in an X1 in 1947. His feat was not announced until June of 1948 because the test was conducted in such secrecy by the US Government. He was paid $283, his monthly USAF pay, after a civilian test pilot had demanded $150,000 to try. Two previous test pilots had died in their attempts. At the age of 89, after a long and distinguished career in the USAF, Chuck Yaeger commemorated the 65th anniversary of his breaking the sound barrier piloting a McDonnell-Douglas F15 Eagle fighter out of Nellis AFB in Nevada. Break a Wing, Chuck, and may you rest in peace.” — Vicki, Newton
“Heather Dexter and the team of social workers and life enhancement folks at Hebrew Senior Life in Roslindale. These folks don’t get half the credit they deserve. Supporting the patients, the staff, and the families in the community of people caring for the elderly. We have all been extra edgy this year, and their task was to help the community struggle through. When your loved one is living in a senior care situation, no matter the level of care, you are extra emotional, extra needy, extra concerned. Add to that a pandemic, and this team of people have quite the task ahead of them every day. So grateful to them.” –– Rebecca, Milford, NH
Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and grammar.
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