Two strangers use conch shells to carry on tradition of honoring health care workers

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DENVER (KDVR) — COVID-19 has cast a darkness over all of us, silencing so many aspects of our daily lives. However, one year after the pandemic began, you can still hear the sound of gratitude for the things we haven’t lost.

Night after night, like clockwork, Patrick Bertch has continued to honor health care workers in his own unique way by blasting his conch shell through his Denver neighborhood at 8 p.m.

“I feel like it’s such a simple thing,” Bertch said.

His simple act, however, has inspired something much larger. Brynmore Williams has never met Bertch, but heard about him through social media.

Williams has also been playing his conch shell throughout much of the pandemic, and his neighborhood carried on the 8 p.m. tradition longer than most others.

“When we let it dwindle, we thought we’d really pressed it to the limit. There’s no one else carrying this torch, maybe we can put it down. The fact he was doing it, we were like, ‘Let’s do it again,'” he said.

Both men have now come to realize their conchs are contagious. Their shells are infecting neighbors, not with COVID, but with something even more powerful.

“I think it’s morphed into community,” said Williams.

“For the first time in my life, I can say with confidence, I think, that I know everyone who lives on my block,” said Williams.

For others in the neighborhood, the two men and their conch shells symbolize what it will take to ultimately defeat the virus, a feat done not alone, but together.

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