The challenges and dangers that the pandemic has thrust upon front-line medical workers have been well documented. So, too, has the plight of those who keep Americans fed and the mail moving — postal workers, truck drivers and grocery store clerks.
But workers who spend their days digging graves or moving bodies into 1,850-degree furnaces have continued to labor largely in the shadows, doing the same work as always, only a lot more of it.
“It’s all hands on deck at this point,” said Gerry Viggiano, a 40-year employee at St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx who has been called upon to assist with burials instead of performing his usual chauffeur job.
Viggiano said the days are long and physically grueling, but the emotional toll of seeing families unable to bid loved ones a proper farewell is especially draining. At St. Raymond’s, mourners are required to stay in their cars during burial services, which Viggiano said has led to heartbreaking encounters, with family members beckoning him to car windows and asking if he would place things like flowers or a cross near their loved ones’ graves.