BUFFALO, N.Y. — It may have been the smallest crowd in Super Bowl history with 25,000 fans in attendance, but it sure was a special experience.
In the stands at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, were 7,500 frontline workers.
That included Buffalo General Hospital emergency room nurses Patty Keller and Rachel Gibson and Erie County Medical Center nurses Cellina Ciotoli and Kaitlin Floyd.
More than a week ago, Buffalo Bills Owner Kim Pegula surprised those four nurses with Super Bowl LV tickets to see the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Florida.
"We are happy to pronounce that all four of you Kaitlyn, Cellina, Rachel and Patty you have been selected to be our guests at Super Bowl," Pegula said on a Zoom call with the nurses.
"It's a dream come true, it really is. It's really going to be such an experience, and we're going to be with all these other healthcare workers," Floyd said after the announcement. "It' been such a tough year for everyone working, it's going to be a good start to 2021."
Sunday afternoon, 2 On Your Side caught up with Gibson and Keller in Tampa just before the game.
"Just amazing, in awe, humbled, brought tears to my eyes. What an experience to be able to come to the Super Bowl and represent frontline workers. It's just amazing," Keller said.
Gibson and Keller work together in the emergency room at Buffalo General Hospital and shared what it's been like working on the front lines of the pandemic.
"We found ourselves suddenly working a lot more hours. The hours were a lot more stressful. We are wearing all kinds of gear, we are hot, we are worried about every patient, because we don't know who has COVID and who doesn't have COVID," Gibson reflected.
The NFL invited health care workers who received both doses of vaccine to honor them for their extraordinary efforts. The nurses from Buffalo were nominated by those they work with at the hospitals.
Keller has been a nurse for more than 30 years and said this past year was the toughest year for her. She proudly wore her Buffalo Bills gear to the game to represent her hometown team.
"I'm 100% a Buffalo Bills fan. … We are rooting for the Bills to come back to the Super Bowl next year, which is why I have to represent the Bills," she said. "To be at a Super Bowl is just a once-in-a-lifetime experience."