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On the front line: Saluting essential workers in the Roanoke and New River valleys
special report

On the front line: Saluting essential workers in the Roanoke and New River valleys

These are our “essential” workers. Valley Metro bus drivers. Firefighters. Hardware store sales associates. Police officers. Health care workers - from doctors and nurses to technicians and hospital custodians. And lots of others, as defined by Gov. Ralph Northam’s March 24 order that closed a myriad of  “nonessential” businesses to help fight COVID-19.

While many of us are managing to stay at home – no easy task, certainly – for the past six weeks these area residents have become the frontline link to the services we all need. 

Today, we salute these workers with portraits of more than a dozen people drawn from the many who still venture out to their job each day. 

There’s Charles Saunders, who has driven a bus for Valley Metro since 1973. Roanoke sanitation workers Virgil Williams and Jay Keene. Vicky Burdette, a medical technician for the Roanoke City Jail. When she arrives home she leaves her shoes and all her clothes at her front door, to help prevent coronavirus contagion. Amanda Flynn,  a nurse in the medical Intensive Care Unit at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, takes similar precautions, as do many others. 

"You go into work kind of stressed out not knowing what is going to happen, so that's the biggest thing, the unknown," she says.

Stephanie has worked full-time at the Roanoke Times as a photographer for 33 years. She received her BA in Mass Communications from Tulane University & Masters in Journalism from the University of South Carolina.

Matt Gentry is a Blacksburg native and Roanoke Times, New River Bureau Photographer based in Christiansburg.

Heather Rousseau is a staff photographer with The Roanoke Times. She moved to Roanoke in 2015 and has worked around the country as a visual journalist for over 15 years. She loves to share stories through photography and video.

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