Our Home Opener, presented by Etihad Airways against FC Cincinnati, is almost here with the Boys in Blue ready for a return in the Bronx on Saturday, April 24 at Yankee Stadium. Before that, we caught up with MTA worker, NYCFC fan and volunteer with Nanuet EMS, Alberto Hernandez about his love of the game, his love of volunteering and what the last 12 months have been like in the city.
Tanner Smith: Can you start by introducing yourself?
Alberto Hernandez: My name is Alberto Hernandez. I’m from West Nyack, New York. I work as an MTA conductor in New York City transit, and I volunteer with the Nanuet Ambulance Corps.
TS: How long have you been a volunteer?
AH: Going around eight years now. It started when I turned 18, working on a little job at Shoprite. I met a friend who was a volunteer fireman and became good friends with him and decided that I wanted to try it out. I joined the volunteer fire department and did that for a while, and then I also had friends at the ambulance corps and joined up with that, and still do it today.
TS: Is there a different mentality among those that volunteer up their free time to do this kind of work?
AH: When I when I first joined, and I started doing it, I fell in love with it. I found out that I really liked helping people. Most of my jobs have been in the service type industry where it’s always dealing with people. Like I said, I found I really enjoyed it. It’s like, somewhat like a calling.
TS: COVID last year completely flipped New York on its head. What were some of those difficulties for you as a volunteer EMT?
AH: With the EMFs, I would be picking up COVID positive patients all the time taking them to the hospital. And with that aspect, you know, I really saw how damaging COVID actually was. You can have people and they weren’t really in very good shape at all. It completely changed everything.
TS: When a global pandemic hits, you know, and that’s not something anybody has been trained for. What kept you volunteering and trying to help even with so many unknowns?
AH: Early on, there is the fear, because, you know, there are so many questions when it first came out; how contagious is it? Back when I started college, I was trying to go the doctor route, but then realised eight years of college wasn’t for me [laughs], so I have a bit of a science background, so I understood a little bit of it, but still, even the scientists that didn’t really understand it. It’s just that I’ve always been a hard worker. It’s just, you know, a pandemic happens and people still suit up, go to work, you still volunteer.
TS: Did you feel like you saw the city’s perseverance during that time?
AH: From seeing the people still going to work every day, during the height of the pandemic, it would be mainly the service industry and nurses, doctors, you know, I don’t know exactly who they were -- all I see is the scrubs. So you’d always see them, and they’re going to work and it makes me want to continue doing it because they’re doing hard work. I’m there to get them to their location so they can continue working in the hospital, and providing care to everyone, which everyone needed.
TS: Things are slowly starting to return to normal, the stadium is starting to slowly let people in. How excited are you to just get back and actually watch a soccer match and enjoy it?
AH: I can’t wait for it. I can’t wait for the home opener. It’s been over a year since the last soccer game I went to and I missed it. It’s a fun time, I go with my friends. And always enjoy the times at the games. Especially when we win.