British Columbia

How one lonely clapper in Vancouver's West End sparked the 7 p.m. health-care workers salute

Rory Richards lives in the city's densely populated West End and thought it was the perfect place to start an appreciation movement, which has now spread across the province.

Even the city's iconic 9 O'clock Gun will now fire 2 hours earlier in solidarity

The idea of rallying British Columbians to cheer collectively for front-line workers daily during the COVID-19 crisis was inspired by similar displays by citizens in other cities also impacted by the virus. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The first night Rory Richards applauded health-care workers from her Vancouver apartment window, some of her neighbours actually shut theirs. 

Richards, a mom of twin toddlers who lives in the city's densely-populated West End neighbourhood, wanted to show her family's appreciation for those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She decided to try to rally others in her neighbourhood to join her on March 20 in a collective cheer at 7 p.m. P.T., inspired by similar displays reported on in other cities impacted by the virus

It didn't really go as Richards had planned. 

"It was pretty tepid," said Richards, who was joined only by a few other lone clappers, most of which she said were friends she had texted and cajoled.

'I thought it would be a great place to get the ball rolling,' said Richards about Vancouver's West End neighbourhood, which is near one of the city's major hospitals. (Rory Richards)

But Richards kept at it, messaging neighbours and using social media to get the word out as much as possible. In a matter of days, her idea has become a nightly tradition for many.

Residents of the West End now not only come out in droves to show their gratitude for health-care workers with riotous enthusiasm, but the movement has grown across the province. 

A family shows its support for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic from their home in the West End on March 25. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

First responders now parade past hospitals with lights flashing to show their support and for many people holed up at home, banging pots and pans alongside their neighbours every night has become an evening highlight.


 

Even the Vancouver Park Board is signaling its solidarity with the movement by altering the schedule of the iconic 9 O'clock Gun in Stanley Park, which starting March 30 will fire at 7 p.m. until the end of April 

"If we, at the Park Board, can help amplify that message of solidarity, we are more than happy to," said board chair Camil Dumont in a statement.


 

The 7 p.m. time coincides with shift change for health-care workers at St. Paul's Hospital, which is on the perimeter of Richards' neighbourhood.

"They are just really doing this with so much courage and so much dignity," said Richards. "I want them to be seen and I want them to be appreciated."

 

Dr. Daniel Kalla, head of the emergency department at St. Paul's, has managed to get outside to hear the applause and said it is wonderful to experience.

"It's more than just feeling appreciated, you feel supported, like the community has your back," said Kalla.

And if your block isn't partaking in this boisterous display of gratitude yet, Richards has some advice: 

"If people think you're nuts, then they think you're nuts," she said. "You just gotta get out there and be like us the first night."

With files from The Early Edition

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