San Jose, California, officials said for more than a year, local transit employees battled the dangers of Covid-19 – only to now fall victim to another epidemic: gun violence.
At least eight people were killed Wednesday morning when a gunman opened fire at a public transit rail yard in San Jose. The victims were employees of the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA).
“These folks were heroes during Covid-19, the buses never stopped running, VTA didn’t stop running, they just kept at work,” Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said at a news conference.
“And now we’re really calling on them to be heroes a second time, to survive such a terrible, terrible tragedy,” Chavez added.
Authorities haven’t released further details about the victims at this time but Mayor Sam Liccardo made it clear they played a critical role in helping the community continue to function throughout the pandemic.
“These are and were essential workers,” Liccardo said. “They were showing up every day to operate light rail and buses to ensure people could still continue to go about their lives amid all the challenges of the pandemic and they were taking risks with their own lives in doing so.”
Wednesday’s mass shooting was the latest to claim the lives of American essential workers at their workplace.
Last month, a FedEx facility shooting
Last month, eight people were killed at an Indianapolis FedEx Ground facility when a gunman got out of his car and began shooting.
Amarjit Sekhon, 48, and Jasvinder Kaur, 50, were the backbones of their families and members of the city’s tight-knit Sikh community.
Matthew R. Alexander, 32, was a kind, reliable friend. Karli Smith, 19, was remembered by her high school as a hardworking and dedicated student. John Weisert, 74, was a retired engineer and worked at the facility to make some extra money for his family. Samaria Blackwell, 19, dreamed of being a police officer to help people. Amarjeet Johal, 66, and Jaswinder Singh, 68, were also killed.
The shooting served as a “horrific reminder that America’s workers, whether they work at a grocery store or a FedEx warehouse, face growing and unspeakable risks and threats,” Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), said in a statement.
“While we have rightfully focused on doing more to protect essential workers from the risks of the pandemic, more must be done by our corporate and elected leaders to address the epidemic of gun violence that threatens workers’ lives,” Perrone said.
A verified GoFundMe campaign was set up for the families of the victims.
A gunman opened fire at a grocery store
In March, 10 people were killed at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colorado.
Among them, 25-year-old Rikki Olds, 20-year-old Denny Stong and 51-year-old Teri Leiker, who were all working at the store.
Olds, a front-end manager at the store, wanted to be a nurse, but was at the time “pursuing her dream of being a store manager at King Soopers,” her uncle previously said.
Leiker’s family said in a statement that at 3 years old, she had been diagnosed with cognitive disabilities but that never stopped her. She began living independently at 21 and started her first and only job at King Soopers in 1989. She was a “Courtesy Clerk (front end bagger), brought in buggies, and helped anywhere she was needed,” they said.
Stong tried to protect others when the shooter began firing. A friend of his said at the time she had “no doubt that he lost his life trying to save other people.”
In a recent statement, Mayor Sam Weaver called the store an “essential community asset,” adding it “provides sustenance, services, and a hub for our community.”
CNN’s David Williams contributed to this report.