NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The annual St. Patrick's Day Parade made its in-person return in New York City Thursday after a virtual celebration due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the event stepped off without a familiar face.
The world's largest St. Patrick's Day Parade marched up Fifth Avenue, but Cardinal Timothy Dolan was not able to officiate the annual St Patrick's Day Mass that proceeds the parade.
He is in St Louis, mourning the death of his mother, and newly installed Diocese of Brooklyn Bishop Robert Brennan took his place.
In an acknowledgement of the past two years, the parade held a moment of silence at noon outside St Patrick's to "mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and the victims of the pandemic."
Parade participants faced south, towards the World Trade Center site, and members of the FDNY, NYPD, Port Authority, and 69th Regiment bands played "Taps" and "Amazing Grace."
The moment was also held in recognition of the people of Ukraine.
The event turned pandemic blues Irish green and offered hope that the worst of it may be over. The marching bands and spectators were back, as is -- according to Mayor Eric Adams -- New York City.
"It means a lot," he said. "This is like a Mike Piazza moment when you hit the home run for the New York Mets. We're about to hit a home run today. City's up and operating. We will keep rising, open our city and move forward."
It was the first parade staged in New York City since COVID appeared, and it was the first parade canceled when the city locked down.
"It's just wonderful that New York is able to put this huge parade on to support all of the Irish in this city, that built the city, and we're just so proud," spectator Mary McCorry said. "First generation."
Fifth Avenue in March of 2020 was practically deserted after businesses and office towers shut their doors and many abandoned the city and worked remotely.
The 2022 parade was long on nostalgia but far shorter on spectators, due in part perhaps to the unmistakably Irish weather.
But two-thirds of office workers have yet to return to Manhattan, and most are still working from home. Those who were there said they wouldn't miss it, even if others had other plans.
"It feels good to be back," spectator Desmond Simon said. "It feels like New York is finally getting its legs back again. I'm just happy to be here."
The parade started at 11 a.m., with marchers heading north on Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to East 79th Street
The 2022 Grand Marshal was James Callahan, General President of the International Union of Operating Engineers.
Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the IUOE is a diverse trade union that represents over 400,000 men and women in the United States and Canada who work as heavy equipment operators, mechanics, and surveyors in the construction industry, as well as stationary engineers who work in the operation and maintenance of industrial and commercial buildings such as schools, hospitals, offices, powerhouses, sports arenas and the like, in both countries.
The IUOE also represents nurses and other health industry workers, public employees in a wide variety of occupations, and several job classifications in the petrochemical industry.
Callahan is a 40-year member and third-generation Operating Engineer, who moved up the ranks from Member to Shop Steward, Foreman, Trustee, Business Representative and ultimately in 2003, led Local 15 in New York City as President and Business Manager.
He and his wife Fran are the proud parents to James, Ian, and Patrick and reside on Long Island.