New Jersey thanks you
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There is no denying New Jersey has been hit hard by COVID-19. As of this writing, we have lost more than 10,800 members of our New Jersey family, at a time when we are also isolated from friends, extended family members, and the psychological comfort of our daily routines.

Yet, in the face of these hardships, New Jersey’s fierce spirit has been sustained by the very people who are in the greatest danger and are on the front lines of this crisis: our first responders.

We knew our first responders were heroes long before COVID-19 came to New Jersey. For anyone who has ever had to call 911, the knowledge that someone is coming to help you is the most precious comfort. That no one need face an emergency alone is a testament to the goodness and decency of our people.

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Now, the heroes we depend on in normal times are being strained like never before. They continue to rush toward danger to save lives, despite the heightened risks brought by COVID-19.

Paramedics are putting in 12-plus-hour shifts. Health care workers are facing contagion all day, only to worry about bringing it home to their families. Police officers and firefighters continue to protect our communities with new and potentially deadly danger at every call. Essential workers in countless roles are showing up to work every day to make sure life continues.

About a month ago, my wife, first lady Tammy Murphy, began the #NJThanksYou social media campaign to express a small measure of the gratitude we feel for these brave women and men. Within minutes of the first post, she received hundreds of responses from friends and family members who were deeply proud of their loved ones serving in all manner of essential roles: health care providers, custodians, gas station attendants, hospital chaplains, grocery store workers, postal workers and police officers, just to name a few.

To all our heroes working tirelessly to protect us during these unprecedented times, we thank you.

We thank you for every hand you have held in an ambulance on its way to an emergency room, every door handle sanitized, every package delivered, and every gallon of milk stocked. We thank you for every life you have been able to save, and, for those you couldn’t save, we thank you for easing their discomfort as they are called home to glory. We are grateful for every act you have taken to propel us through these difficult times.

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But, we have more to thank these heroes for than the acts of service they have performed. Much more than a safety net, these heroes are a source of pride for our great state. All over the state, our residents have found small ways to express gratitude for our first responders. Some have had pizza delivered to hospitals, some have made signs, some have organized a parade of cars just to beep their car horns and make noise.

These are small acts, gestures that we offer because, aside from staying home, we don’t know how else to be supportive. We do this not just because they are deserving and worthy of our gratitude, but also because they have lifted our spirits. Their bravery and sense of purpose have trickled down to the entire state and call us to be stronger and more resilient than we ever thought we could be.

There are a lot of important questions about how we are going to come out of this crisis: How do we save as many lives as possible? How do we get the economy back on track? How will we feel when we look back on this traumatic episode that has tested us on every front?

We are working day in and day out to find good answers to the first two questions, but the third is answered already. Our New Jersey values — selflessness, courage, resourcefulness, generosity, stamina — are manifested every day in our first responders, essential workers, and everyone who shows them love and support, reminding us of the best of who we are.

And for that, also, New Jersey thanks you.

Murphy is governor of New Jersey.