Coronavirus Update New York City: MTA honors 136 employees who have died due to COVID-19

Coronavirus update for NYC
NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The MTA has lost 136 employees to COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and on Monday, they launched a living memorial to honor them.

The engaging visual memorial honors those heroes who dedicated their lives to moving New Yorkers through the city and region.

Built around photographs shared by family members, the memorial was designed by MTA Arts & Design, at the request of Interim President of MTA New York City Transit Sarah Feinberg.

"The pandemic has marked an unimaginably challenging and painful time at New York City Transit," Feinberg said. "Today marks the next step in our ongoing efforts to honor 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."

It is entitled "TRAVELS FAR" after a poem by Tracy K. Smith, former U.S. Poet Laureate, that was commissioned for the project and will appear in multiple languages at stations.

"It's a beautiful poem and speaks to our transit family and how much the men and women of transit impact New Yorkers day in and day out," Feinberg said.

Some of those honored in the video include train operator Stanley Fong, bus operator Leon McKnight and track worker Scott Elijah.

Elijah's daughter said he was a doting grandfather and when he wasn't helping out his church, he was always working.

The father of three from Long Island got sick in late February and died on March 28 in the hospital from COVID. He was just 57 years old.

His daughter, Ashley Elijah, said the video is just one example of the MTA going above and beyond to help soften the vicious sting of so much loss.

"I know he loved his job, he met all these people he got to be part of the mix, my dad was a man always in the mix," Elijah said.

The video also shows how COVID-19 has disproportionately effected communities of color among the essential workers on the front line.

"It's reflective of our workforce but it's just like a dagger in my heart every time they watch it," Feinberg said.

The memorial will appear as an eight-minute video running on 138 three-panel digital screens at 107 subway stations starting Monday, Jan. 25, through Sunday, Feb. 7.

"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."

The video will play twice consecutively three times per day, at 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and is available to view on a website featuring the memorial and portraits.

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