“That’s what we signed up to do;” Tri-Cities essential workers away from families this Thanksgiving

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TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) – Essential workers across Northeast Tennessee did not spend their Thanksgiving basting a turkey or throwing the pigskin around. They spent the day doing the jobs that keep their communities safe and healthy.

News Channel 11 spoke to workers in health care and emergency response about how they are spending Thanksgiving.

Kristina Hammonds is a Ballad Health nurse at Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport. She spent her Thanksgiving Day working in the hospital’s COVID-19 unit.

“We have a job to do first and foremost, not only for our families but for our communities and our patients,” Hammonds said.

She said she would be able to see her family Thursday evening, but the traditional Thanksgiving celebration would have to wait for another day.

“I definitely miss my family, but what I’m doing is for them, so it makes it worth it in the long run,” Hammonds said.

Long hours and time away from family is nothing new to Hammonds, who has worked through the pandemic. She said hours and patient loads vary day-to-day.

Hammonds said her role as a nurse takes on extra importance on Thanksgiving because her patients, in the fight of their lives, also are not able to see their families.

“We just try to make sure they get the best part of us today,” Hammonds said. “We know how it is being here and not being able to be around your loved ones.”

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days of the year for fire departments around the country.

Jake Davis is a Johnson City firefighter working out of Station 3 near downtown. He spent Thanksgiving on call, waiting with his fellow firefighters to jump into action at any given moment.

“You knew what you’re signed up for. You’re going to do holidays,” Davis said. “You’re going to be away from your family for an extended period of time.”

Davis said this Thanksgiving was calm. Station 3 had not been called in for anything as of 5 p.m. Thursday.

That allowed for the firefighters on duty to have a Thanksgiving feast of their own: beef prime rib with baked potatoes, rolls, salad and dessert.

Davis said his co-workers become a second family after spending long hours on-call with them in a high-stress job.

“It’s a different type of family here. We all get together still and we eat,” Davis said. “It’s pretty much the same as being home, just different faces.”

He said spending time with family and the traditions of Thanksgiving can come another day this weekend.

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