Revelry on the Rooftops

The drone heard on the rooftop of the Philadelphia apartment building where Dr. Ashley Johnson and Dr. Eddie Zhang live was not the kind created by the couple bemoaning their circumstances in the presence of the coronavirus.

Dr. Johnson, 33, a traumatic brain injury medicine fellow at MossRehab in Elkins Park, Pa., and Dr. Zhang, 30, a resident in radiation oncology at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, were married April 11 on their rooftop, “a last-minute decision,” said Dr. Zhang, that followed the cancellation of the couple’s originally scheduled nuptials, which had been set for March 21 at the John James Audubon Center in Audubon, Pa., where 150 guests were expected to attend.

“Sometimes the things you want the most in life do not always go the way you planned it to go,” said Dr. Johnson, who graduated from Princeton and received a medical degree from the University of Rochester.

Dr. Zhang, who graduated from Duke and received a medical degree from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said that he and Dr. Johnson had waited so long to get married, “so we decided to just get it done and move forward with our lives,” he said.

They got it done, but not without the help of a half-dozen neighbors, all of whom made their presence felt from connecting rooftops during a self-uniting ceremony attended by family and close friends via Zoom. One neighbor played his cello, another her guitar, and yet another neighbor’s toddler daughter served as the ring bearer.

“Each rooftop is about six-feet apart from the other,” Dr. Zhang said, “so that worked out pretty well.”

The groom’s sister, Lisa Zhang, 25, a second-year medical student at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine who is quarantining with the couple, helped to facilitate the ceremony. The bride’s sister, Beverly Fleuter, who is a pediatric intensive care nurse, attended remotely from a small lactation closet during the lunch break of her nursing shift at Stanford Children’s Hospital.

“Our wedding was catered with takeout from a neighborhood restaurant,” said Dr. Zhang, whose first dance with Dr. Johnson was to “I Am Yours,” a song by Andy Grammer, which was taken by a drone video and later posted to the newlyweds’ neighborhood Facebook group.

“Working in a hospital during this Covid-19 crisis makes you realize just what an isolating experience it has been for everyone,” said Dr. Johnson. “That’s why we felt a strong need to have family and friends present via video.”

And on the surrounding rooftops, where neighbors cheered for the couple throughout their ceremony, their cheers reaching a crescendo at the end of the proceedings, when the couple unfurled a homemade “Just Married” banner and hung it proudly over a side of the roof facing the street.

“Our wedding day was fun, but it was surreal,” Dr. Johnson said. “There wasn’t the usual pomp and circumstance involved, and I didn’t get up early with all of my girlfriends to get our hair and nails done, nor did I get the chance to cry with my mother.”

The couple said they are planning a celebration ceremony in October “in the hope that the coronavirus will, by then, be a thing of the past,” Dr. Zhang said.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *