At emotional mass reunion, grandparents see grandkids for first time since pandemic started

At emotional mass reunion, grandparents see grandkids for first time since pandemic started

About 28 families who had been separated for more than a year got to hug one another at MetLife Stadium on Thursday.

By Ellison Barber, Kerry Sanders, Carolina Gonzalez and Elizabeth Chuck
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It was a series of hugs that Peggy Broda had waited months for: first, an embrace with her daughter; then, a tight squeeze of her granddaughter; and finally, the chance to hold her infant grandson for the first time.

Separated by a couple of states and only able to see one another via video calls for more than a year, Broda and her husband, Bob, were two of about three dozen fully vaccinated senior citizens who reunited Thursday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, with more than 100 loved ones for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The Brodas’ granddaughter Gray, who was a day shy of turning 5, wore a rainbow-patterned mask as her father, James Zdaniewski, hoisted her up and lifted her into her grandmother’s arms. The Brodas then got their first in-person glimpse of their grandson, 9-month-old Shep.

“This is just an incredible, incredible day,” Peggy Broda said, bouncing Shep on her lap. “It’s so fun to finally meet him.”

The event, which required a Covid-19 test for entry, was sponsored by United Airlines, Marriott Bonvoy and the travel identification technology platform CLEAR.

Most of the seniors in attendance came from South Florida on a United-sponsored flight, while the Brodas took a train from their home in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts. Their daughter, Adrienne Zdaniewski, came in from Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and their two children.

“You would think it’d be all about excitement, and happiness, and it absolutely is,” Adrienne Zdaniewski said on the evening before the reunion with her parents. “But I think more than anything, I’ll speak for myself, it’s just relief.”

For others, the event was bittersweet. Michele Wasserman and Sue Weinberg, whose brother, Stephen Barry, died of Covid-19 in February at age 69, were among those who flew in from Florida. They were seeing Barry’s family for the first time since the pandemic started.



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