TAMPA, Fla. — Editor's Note: The video above is from August 2021.
Tuesday night's national anthem at Amalie Arena will carry special meaning for thousands of Tampa Bay Lightning fans gathering for the NHL's opening night.
Bolts singer Sonya Bryson-Kirksey, 54, was fully vaccinated when she was hospitalized with COVID-19 in mid-July. Her multiple sclerosis meant she was more vulnerable to the highly contagious delta variant.
She became seriously ill, and loved ones prayed for her day after day. She struggled to breathe at times but never lost faith.
Perhaps she could feel the outpouring of community support as she lay in the hospital bed.
Bryson-Kirksey continued to fight the virus. Hospital staff cheered in August as she exited the hospital and began the long recovery process.
“Sonya is an important member of the Lightning family and an integral part of our game day experience," a Lightning spokesperson wrote at the time. "We’re wishing her the best and hoping for a speedy recovery."
Now, she's reached a milestone.
A close friend confirms Bryson-Kirksey will perform when the back-to-back Stanley Cup champs host the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Tampa.
"I can't wait to see my team!" she tweeted of the Bolts.
If you can't make the game, here's how to watch.