The 21 transportation workers Long Island lost to COVID-19 were honored Saturday with a bronze plaque set in a boulder listing their names under just three words: "Never Be Forgotten."
A grove of five young dogwood trees, donated by Bridgehampton High School's Future Farmers of America, is also part of the memorial, set on the east side of Suffolk's government offices in the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge. It is a tribute, officials said, to the courage these individuals exemplified by putting everything on the line to ensure other essential workers could travel safely.
At the ceremony, which began with the Hauppauge High's Chamber Choir singing the Gaelic hymn "Until We Meet Again" and was attended by the families, union and elected officials, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone saluted these workers' "public servant's heart."
"In those early, dark days, when people were sheltered in their homes, when people were afraid and fearful of their safety and that of their loved ones, these transportation workers were out there every day, helping us get through this pandemic," he said.
Suffolk County Legis. Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac), who chairs the transportation working group that proposed the memorial, said the pandemic widened the definition the essential workers to include these individuals. "Our bus drivers, and our train operators and our transportation workers kept our society moving and our economy afloat; we owe them a debt of gratitude that we cannot fully express."
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said: "I just want to say to the families, you do not grieve alone, when people come and see these beautiful trees, people will know about you and your loved ones and their sacrifice."
Debra Hagan, president of Transport Workers Union Local 252, who read the 21 names, said it was both a privilege and an honor to have worked with the ones she knew. "We will keep them in our prayers for eternity."