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‘Lights of Love’ at Obici

At precisely 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday night, the parking lot at Sentara Obici Hospital erupted into a cacophony of honking and sirens, with all kinds of lights flashing from personal vehicles, fire trucks, tow trucks and more.

The “Lights of Love” effort (video here) showed hospital employees how greatly they are cared for during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was advertised through Facebook by Donna Perry, owner of Derl’z restaurant and, for many years, a frequent organizer of activities benefiting police, first responders and others front-line workers.

Those in attendance said they came out just to show their support for the people who are fighting the pandemic by caring for patients.

Gina Lilley has a close family member who is a nurse at the hospital.

“I just admire that they come here every day not knowing what they’re facing,” Lilley said. “She goes to work every day and doesn’t seem to be afraid.”

Wendy Williams said she has friends who are nurses at Obici.

“We wanted to come out and show our support,” she said.

There were dozens of vehicles of all shapes and sizes, from sedans and SUVs to Suffolk Police cars, a couple of tow trucks, Suffolk Department of Fire & Rescue vehicles including a ladder truck, and more. They all waited for the signal from Perry and then turned on their lights, flashed their headlights, honked their horns, blared their sirens and made as much racket as they could.

Most people stayed in their vehicles and followed social distancing rules, keeping close to only the people in their family.

Tracy Combs, who came out with her husband and their children, said, “We wanted to show our nurses and doctors that we appreciate them for being on the front lines.”

Brandon Upright and his family also said they came to show their support.

“To show any level of support to people who are putting their lives at risk every single day to take care of people,” he said. “It’s cool to see everybody come out here. What’s even cooler is to see the fire department and police department, who already put their lives at risk, coming out here to do the same thing.”

Jessica Lowder, vice president of operations for Sentara Obici Hospital, said there were tears of joy from the staff, many of whom were able to watch from the sidewalk near the hospital.

“Last night has been the talk today,” Lowder said on Thursday. “I think it was more than what anybody ever expected.”

Lowder said all of the support from the community during the pandemic has been very appreciated.

“The way they’ve rallied around our hospital and our employees has been nothing short of humbling and awe-inspired,” she said of the community. She cited a MealTrain that’s set up to provide food to workers, donations of personal protective equipment, thank-you notes and more.

Lowder also said patients are getting a lot of support. None of the patients in the hospital are able to have visitors, so it has been a lonely time for them, no matter the reason for their stay.

“One lady sent a whole pack of devotionals for anybody that wanted it, knowing they need more to fill in and pass their time because they can’t have visitors,” Lowder said.

Lowder thanked the entire community for all of its support and again thanked Perry for the “Lights of Love.”

“I can’t say thank you enough to Donna who organized it and all who participated in it,” she said. “It meant a ton to every member of our team, and we appreciate it more than anybody will ever know.”