Emotional return to work this weekend for VTA light rail workers

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority will resume full service across the system Saturday, nearly four months after an employee killed nine workers in a mass shooting at the Guadalupe rail yard in San Jose.

Getting back on track has been a painful process. For many VTA workers, reopening service has meant reopening wounds from the attack on May 26th. Building B at the rail yard, where some of the nine employees were killed, remains closed.

"I knew all nine of them. This incident left such a mark on our hearts," said Iqbal Dhillon, a VTA light rail operator.

Dhillon says he's grateful for the community's patience during the VTA's shutdown of the light rail service.

"I was a VTA rider for a long time and I feel the pain for our riders," said Dhillon.

VTA officials have tried to balance the need to reopen and restore service, with the need to give workers time to heal from the shock and trauma.

"We cannot forget what happened that day," said Dhillon.

Losing those nine friends and colleagues in such violence has left scars. One coworker committed suicide.

"I think suffering alone is worse," said Dhillon, "If you talk to someone and tell someone what you're going through, you heal a little better."

VTA spokeswoman Stacey Hendler Ross says the transit agency has been taking steps during the past months to ease people back to the workplace.

"We're bringing back extra trauma recovery specialists for employees so they don't have setbacks," said Hendler Ross.

The VTA is offering support with non-profits and the Santa Clara County District Attorney's victim services.

Kasey Halcon is with the Santa Clara County District Attorney's victim services team and has helped coordinate the support and counseling. She says she and her son often wave and form a heart with their hands when they see transit operators to show support.

"They just want to know that they're appreciated and people are grateful to have them, because it does come at a personal cost for them to push through feelings of grief," said Halcon.

Now, as the VTA returns to full operation, many employees are re-entering the rail yard where their friends were killed.

"I really wanted to see where I lost my loved ones," said Dhillon, "Everyone has a different healing process but we have to stand with each other. If you're not feeling better, I'll be there for you. If I'm not feeling better you'll be here for me. Let's think of it this way. Just give every rider out there a safe trip from their home to their work and work to home. "

That sense of safety for riders, is something the VTA employees hope to feel again for themselves as they return to work and think of the colleagues they lost.

"We are here for everyone who lost their life. We want to live with them. And they'll be always here for us," said Dhillon.

The VTA says rides will be free through the end of September.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at jana.katsuyama@fox.com and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or ktvu.com.