At the start of the pandemic, MTA employees were deemed essential to keep the subway and bus system running for other workers to get to and from their places of business. But this put employees at risk of contracting the novel virus, which has killed more than 440,000 Americans to date.
The MTA decided to open its own memorial to honour workers who’ve lost their lives in a campaign that will run until 7 February.
The memorial involves digital portraits of the MTA workers who died being displayed on screens that typically show maps and service changes. Alongside the portraits is a commissioned poem entitled Travels Far by US Poet Laureate Tracy K Smith.
It will appear in 107 subway stations, which is about one-quarter of the total 472 stops on MTA’s route, in New York City’s five boroughs. People can also view the memorial online.
MTA said it will run the memorial, which is nine minutes in length, three times per day, at 10:30am, 2:30pm, and 8:30pm. These screens are displayed inside the station’s gates, but relatives seeking to view the memorial can watch for free if they speak to a booth worker.
“The pandemic has marked an unimaginably challenging and painful time at New York City Transit," said Sarah Feinberg, the interim president of MTA New York City Transit, when the memorial opened last week.
“Today marks the next step in our ongoing efforts to honour the colleagues, friends and family members who were taken from us too soon. These men and women were the heroes of the transit system – conductors, bus and train operators, cleaners – but they were also mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. We think of them daily and we continue to mourn them with their friends and families,” she added.
Train operators for the MTA have the highest rate of infection from Covid-19 compared to all other employees within the agency.
The train service, which used to be offered 24/7, now ends at 1am each evening for four hours so each train and station can undergo a deep cleaning. This was in an effort to protect workers and passengers who utilised the transportation throughout the pandemic.
But still nearly 140 employees have lost their lives due to the novel virus.
"Covid-19 has been a devastating scourge on our entire country and, tragically, that includes the MTA's workforce," said MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick J Foye. "We quickly made sure that those families who lost an MTA worker to COVID were taken care of financially, but the launch of today's memorial is aimed at personalizing the legacies of those who died during the pandemic. 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."
Sandra Bloodworth, director of the MTA Arts & Design department and a visual artist, conceived the idea for the memorial to honour those who lost their lives. She worked with an in-house team to create the artwork and video for the memorial.
Family members of each person were asked to submit a portrait of their loved one. These portraits were then placed against a background in the MTA’s colors.
“It’s so important for New Yorkers to understand the price that has been paid by so many,” Ms Feinberg says. “If this gives the city a way to honour the people who carried the city on their backs for the bulk of the pandemic, it could help the city grieve, it could help the city understand, at its core, the price that’s been paid.”
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