By Vicente Vera
Pictures of all nine Valley Transportation Authority workers killed were displayed beside more than a dozen VTA leaders and allies—some struggling to hold back tears as they described the friends and coworkers who were lost.
Violence broke out shortly after a union meeting at the Guadalupe Light Rail Yard at 100 West Younger Avenue in downtown San Jose Wednesday morning. The shooter, identified as 57-year-old VTA technician Samuel Cassidy, killed nine people before turning the gun on himself.
One victim transported to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in critical condition died late Wednesday. County officials identified all nine victims earlier in the day.
Nauni Singh, VTA light rail transportation superintendent, shared the same office space with Paul Megia, one of the nine workers killed yesterday. Singh said the work he handed down to Megia was demanding at times, but his coworker was always taking on more work to help others.
The loss became more painful for Singh when he described his own family’s reaction to seeing him come home Wednesday night.
“I saw my family running toward the car when I parked and they hugged me. They were happy I made it home,” he said. “But I was sad inside that some of my family members could not feel the warmth that I was able to feel yesterday.”
San Jose and Santa Clara County elected leaders stood shoulder to shoulder and took turns at the podium—some sharing stories of the deceased and others just sharing in the grief.
San Jose Councilmember Dev Davis, an alternate VTA board member, told San José Spotlight she came out to stand in support with the families who have to endure such a tremendous loss.
“Even though these shootings have become so frequent in our country, I felt like I shouldn’t have been shocked—but I was,” she said. “I just pray.”
Evelynn Tran, VTA’s acting general manager, walked up to the podium with tears running down her face. She read out the names of each fallen worker while looking at the display of pictures.
“Some of us get training on what to do when there’s an active shooter event, but not about the aftermath,” Tran said. “Yesterday I was at that family assistance center, and I saw that aftermath.”
VTA Board Chair Glenn Hendricks said the transit agency is planning a public memorial in partnership with the families of the deceased.
The transit authority’s human resources department will also reach out to all of the families to help them navigate benefits and resources to cope, spokesperson Stacy Handler Ross said.
Carolyn Gonot, recently announced as VTA’s incoming CEO, is still more than a month away from officially starting, but she followed Tran’s remarks to express her own dedication to helping guide VTA workers and their families through the aftermath.
“I have previously spent 23 years here at VTA, and they are my family,” she said. “I was in touch with the leadership yesterday and was proud about the focus on safety and wellbeing of all our employees.”
San Jose Councilmember Raul Peralez joined speakers to share his personal connection with a fallen worker, his childhood friend Michael Rudometkin.
Peralez described himself as being “in a sense of disbelief” over the confirmation his friend was among the nine who lost their lives Wednesday.
“(You have) hope that your loved one is still going to come home, and knowing that’s just never going to happen again, it’s just been painstaking,” Peralez said. “We need to continue to wrap our arms around these families, around our VTA family as we go out and continue to offer the necessity of public transportation to our community under these extreme and horrendous circumstances.”
Contact Vicente Vera at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @vicentejvera on Twitter.
This article was originally published by The San José Spotlight.