Pittsburgh Will Light Up Tonight as a ‘Thank You’ to Essential Workers

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

By Kimberly Lawson

April 7, 2020

Residents are being asked to turn on their lights, step outside, and honor first responders, grocery store employees, and other workers who have proven to be essential by risking their own well-being for the service of others in this time of crisis.

On Tuesday at 8 p.m., the city of Pittsburgh will light up in honor of essential workers and their efforts on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. City buildings and surrounding homes will participate in the “Illumination Ovation” to applaud the heroic efforts of everyone working to keep people safe.

The idea is the brainchild of Evelyn Castillo, the owner of Sterling Events, an event planning consulting firm. Castillo said a fellow Pittsburgher and friend of hers, Jenifer Evans, participated in a similar event in London recently.

“She contacted me about it, and I said, ‘Why can’t we do that here?’” Castillo told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Then I said, ‘Oh, wait, why don’t I do that here?’” 

Castillo got in contact with several colleagues and friends to get the ball rolling on the event. She and six others collaborated to contact the owners of buildings in downtown Pittsburgh and the surrounding area and many other groups to get a commitment to light up.

“I have a core group of organizers who came on board,” Castillo said. “My vision is to thank everyone who is an essential worker. They’re out there. We all know someone who’s on the front lines. This is a small show of appreciation for all they’re doing so that we can stay home and be comfortable.”

Residents throughout the Pittsburgh area are being asked to turn on their lights, step outside, and honor first responders, hospital employees, mail carriers, grocery store employees, delivery drivers, and other workers who have proven to be essential by risking their own well-being for the service of others in this time of crisis. The Facebook event for the “Illumination Ovation” reminds us to “be the light in each other’s lives.”

Participants are also encouraged to stand on their balconies, porches, or yards—while still practicing social distancing—and clap their hands in a collective round of applause while illuminating their homes with holiday lights, porch lights, flashlights, and phones during the event.

Word of the “Illumination Ovation” began to catch on shortly after Castillo and her colleagues began reaching out to various businesses and organizations. 

“Within a few days, we had all these organizations saying they will do this,” she told the Pittsburgh newspaper. “The Steelers agreed to put on stadium lights, the Pirates to do our Love for Pgh graphic on their video screen. Everyone with controllable lighting will all turn them gold.”

Practicing social distancing effectively by remaining at home per Gov. Tom Wolf’s orders can leave Pennsylvanians feeling helpless. Castillo said this is one way we can show our appreciation and let those working tirelessly everyday amid the pandemic know how grateful we are. 

Participants are encouraged to share photos and videos showing how they showed their support on social media using the hashtag #LoveFromPgh.

Castillo told Next Pittsburgh that this is a simple way to acknowledge our gratitude and build up the city’s sense of community while self-isolating. She says you can turn on your porch light, string up some old Christmas lights, or put a lantern out on your steps—anyone can easily take part in the ovation.

“We want this to be a thank-you note.”

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