Subway memorial pays tribute to 136 MTA employees who died from virus

Featured at 107 of 472 subway stations, it uses digital screens to share the names, photos and titles of MTA workers killed by COVID-19.

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The New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority has installed a memorial tribute to the 136 transit workers who have died from COVID-19. 

Featured at 107 of the MTA’s 472 subway stations, the memorial uses digital screens to share the names, photos and job titles of transit employees who lost their lives while keeping the city moving during the pandemic.

MTA bus driver John Tolbert has his temperature taken before starting his shift at the West Farms Bus Depot last April in New York City. (Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

Before the diverse mix of deceased workers’ portraits scroll in tribute to them, a poem by Tracy K. Smith, who served as America’s poet laureate from 2017 to 2019, appears. Its title, as is that of the MTA memorial, is “Travels Far.” 

“It is a moving tribute to the members of our heroic workforce who lost their lives, and we will continue to make sure those who perished are not forgotten,” said MTA Chairman Patrick Foye. “COVID-19 has been a devastating scourge on our entire country and, tragically, that includes the MTA’s workforce.”

According to the authority, this is the first of several tributes that will honor transit workers who died and those who fell ill but recovered from the virus. 

Half of the New York City transit workers who died from COVID-19 died last March and April 2020, considered early in the pandemic. Their families are eligible for a $500,000 death benefit after a new policy was passed last April. 

“These men and women were the heroes of the transit system — conductors, bus and train operators, cleaners,” said interim NYC Transit President Sarah Feinberg. “They were also mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters.”

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The eight-minute video tribute will play three times a day, at 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., through Sunday, Feb. 7, according to transit officials. There is also an online version featuring an original score by composer Christopher Thompson.

Tony Utano, the president of the Transport Workers Union Local 100, urged New Yorkers to “stop for a moment during your daily travels and reflect on these departed heroes, the lives lost, and the heartbreak being carried by their families and co-workers.” 

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