BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Veronica Fletcher was among the dozens of family members who came to the Transport Workers Union hall in downtown Brooklyn on Thursday to honor transit workers who died of COVID-19 and to see the union’s new memorial.
“My late husband, like a true warrior and soldier, went into the trenches he went into the street to make sure people can keep living their lives, keep saving lives, keep taking care of their families, with no regard to his own," Fletcher sad.
Her husband, Joseph Fletcher, was one of the 172 employees who died from COVID and more than 12,000 estimated infections. The coronavirus hit the ranks of New York City transit subway and bus workers the hardest.
“Our city, our union, can survive with empty office buildings. We can survive with shuttered restaurants and bars. We can live with government by Zoom," said Tony Utano, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 100. "But we can’t survive without our public transit systems and our nation’s transportation infrastructure.”
Fletcher’s husband died April 11, 2020, at the age of 60, while he had been planning his retirement. He worked in the Flatbush Bus Depot as a maintainer, and he was dedicated to his job.
Fletcher said her husband never missed a chance to take her and their three children to an MTA family day outing.
“One year, we went in the rain to Six Flags when then children were little because his MTA family meant so much to him and it was important for him to have every opportunity to involve both of them together," she said.
The memorial lists the names of transit workers who died of COVID-19 and, lit up on a map of the city, the depots and yards where they worked.
"Even though they’re no longer here, the light of their love is always gonna be in the hearts of their families and the light of their sacrifice. To see it commemorated in a tangible way, it means everything," Fletcher said.
Fletcher's children wore face masks that read "My papa was more than just a number."
"It means that he wasn't just somebody who died from COVID, he wasn't like part of the statistics - this many people died. He was an essential worker he helped keep the city running," said Fletcher's 16-year-old son Joshua.
Fletcher said that this event was the first time she got to grieve with other families of transit workers who died from COVID-19.
She plans to organize meetings with other family members to help children cope their loss and stay connected with one another.