The horn of a VTA train echoed ten times through the Guadalupe Rail Yard early in the morning of May 26, each sound a mournful reminder of one of the ten people who died during the workplace shooting at the yard exactly one year ago.
Family members, friends and coworkers gathered at the yard to pay a solemn tribute to the men who lost their lives.
During the memorial, VTA unveiled the Memorial Flame, a work of art created by a group of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) brothers. The ten light rail trains that make up the upper half of the memorial each represent one of the men remembered. The date, May 26, is shown in roman numerals just below the flame. The men used a piece of VTA overhead line to form a memorial ribbon and created a roman numeral “X” out of railroad ties to represent the ten men who died.
The memorial was created in memory of Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63; Adrian Balleza, 29; Alex Ward Fritch, 49; Jose Dejesus Hernandez, 35; Paul Delacruz Megia, 42; Lars Kepler Lane, 63; Timothy Michael Romo, 49; Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40; Taptejdeep Singh, 36.
“It has been a hard year, to say the least, but if anything, we have seen over the last year, we have strength, resilience and perseverance,” said VTA General Manager Carolyn Gonot. “While we worked so hard to heal over the last year, we won’t ever fully heal. It really is a journey. But what I want to see and what I continue to see is the strength that we have. It’s the kind of strength that comes from dedicated people committed to the public we serve.
“I saw on a regular basis this year, employees reaching out to their coworkers to simply ask how they’re doing and be ready to listen with empathy to the reply,” continued Gonot. “I see a spirit of trust and goodwill as we all work toward the common goal of making this workplace as safe as it can be and as productive as it can be and just generally a great place to work.”
ATU #265 President John Courtney also spoke, saying while VTA is on the right path, there is more work to be done.
“I do believe we are headed in the right direction, but I really, really truly in my heart believe that true healing, true healing will begin when we follow our words and have the actions that we’re speaking about,” said ATU #265 President Courtney. “Making sure that when our employees wake up in the morning to come to work, that they know that they’re not going to be harmed or assaulted and if that does happen, that our employer will do the right thing morally and ethically and protect them and make sure that the perpetrator is punished appropriately. And I’m not 100% feeling that just yet. So, I have to say that we have a long, long path ahead. And in honor of our brothers, that’s the path we have to be on.”
Gonot also alluded to a path forward in her words.
“I recognize that we have problems to solve,” said Gonot. “If we stay the course and help each other when we see a coworker having a tough day or just passing along a smile or a kind word to someone you see throughout the day, these are making strides in the right direction. Whatever may come our way, I think we can handle it, we just need to persevere.”