"It was like nothing I had ever experienced in my whole career," nurse Olivier Germain said.
For registered nurses like Germain, the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in New York was a dark time.
"There were so many people without family members who were alone in those rooms, who were passing away and we were like their family members," Germain said.
But for Germain and more than a dozen hospital staff in Kips Bay, their heroism was met by thousands and thousands of dollars of parking tickets from the city.
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Thank you for your service.
"We just received tickets after tickets after tickets," Germain said.
It happened on East 19th and Second Avenue, where the lane is a metered parking lane after 7 p.m.
However, it turns into a bus lane after 7 a.m.
These nurses say the problem is they didn't have time to come out mid-shift to move their cars because they were busy in the hospital saving lives.
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"This was the middle of the pandemic," Germain said. "I don't think you understand there was no time for bathroom breaks, there was no time for water, there was no time to turn around because your patients were crashing at any point."
Eyewitness News spoke exclusively with several registered nurses who say the tickets were not left on their windshield.
Instead, they were generated by a bus lane camera.
So they had no idea tickets were piling up until they started arriving in the mail more than a month after they were issued.
Germain, for his part, rented a car because he didn't want to take the train from Brooklyn, thinking he could be a super spreader.
He only discovered the tickets because he now owes Hertz more than $1,500 for the summonses, plus the processing fees that got tacked on top.
He alone has more than a dozen tickets.
A colleague got slapped with 25 and counting.
Because every day they check, there's a new one coming in.
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"The amount just kept rolling up, so day by day as you checked, it just kept adding on and adding on," Germain said.
They tried disputing the tickets.
"Not a valid defense. Guilty," Germain said. "I felt hurt to be frank."
In a statement, a Department of Transportation spokesperson said, "DOT is tremendously grateful for the essential workers ... we will work closely to review the violations in question. Please note, the mailing of some automated enforcement notices of violation were delayed during the COVID-19 emergency."
"The city said they loved us. The city said we were heroes," Germain said. "They would fly over us all the time, but quite frankly they failed us in this instance."
WATCH THE SERIES: EYEWITNESS TO A PANDEMIC (Episode 6 below)
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