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Northwell Health Nurse Choir amazed by 'AGT' experience

The Northwell Health Nurse Choir, in background performs

The Northwell Health Nurse Choir, in background performs with Syosset-raised Idina Menzel and fellow contestant Jimmie Herrod on Wednesday's season finale of "America's Got Talent." Credit: NBC / Trae Patton

The morning after their "America's Got Talent" journey ended Wednesday night, as they landed in the lower half of the 10 finalists on the NBC competition's 16th season, two members of the 18-strong Northwell Health Nurse Choir say they and their fellow nurses remain amazed at the experience.

"I think one of the things that keeps us going and shifts our focus away from quote-unquote losing is that we've won in so many other ways," says Emanuel "Manny" Remilus, 31, an assistant nurse manager at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park. "We've grown so much, not only as a choir but as people — we've bonded with each other. We really, really believed we had a shot to win. When we found out we didn't, it was a little disappointing. But we're bedside nurses, and we were given an opportunity to sing on the 'AGT' stage, one of the biggest stages in the world."

Before the results of home-viewer voting were announced on Wednesday's live show, broadcast from Los Angeles' Dolby Theatre, the nurses from 10 mostly Long Island hospitals sang backup for Syosset-raised Tony Award winner Idina Menzel as she and finalist Jimmie Herrod performed "Defying Gravity," the Act 1 closer from Menzel's Broadway hit "Wicked."

"We had a chance to speak with her and to take pictures with her," Keshia Jaboin, 30, an assistant nurse manager at North Shore University Hospital's Katz Women's Hospital, in Manhasset, says of Menzel. "She had a very warm presence to her and we were just so happy to have the opportunity to sing with her — you know, one of Long Island's own, knowing she had Long Island nurses behind her. It was just amazing."

The choir, the two nurses say, bonded with the other contestants, as generally happens on "AGT" and similar talent competitions. "It just kind of felt like we were now a big season-16 family," says Jaboin, who earned her nursing degree at Garden City's Adelphi University. Says Remilus of the season's winner, magician Dustin Tavella, "We met his wife and their two kids, the two little boys they adopted, and they're such great people."

Thursday morning, the bulk of the nurses were preparing to fly back to New York together and arrive around 11 p.m. A few, after having been away from family for about three weeks as the choir moved from the quarterfinals to the semis to the finals, took an earlier flight.

As they prepare to return to their regular lives, the choir nurses remain aware, says Jaboin, that "the pandemic is not over. It's still going. And nurses are still out there in the trenches and we'll be back there in the trenches soon, as well."

"We'll collect ourselves, regroup and go back to work," adds Remilus. "But hopefully," he says of the choir, "there's more in store for us in the future."

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