Family, friends gather to honor 9 killed in 2021 San Jose VTA shooting

Friday marked the second anniversary of the VTA deadly mass shooting. The formal ceremony was closed to the public and held out of the view of cameras.

But hours later at a tree planting in memory of those who were killed, the president of the transit agency’s union workers said this is a time of mourning, healing, and looking to the future.

"We’re always going to be healing from what we felt from May 26, 2021, and we do honor and mourn. But we do, without ever forgetting, move our lives forward," said John Courtney, president of Amalgamated Transit Union 265.

Outside ATU headquarters in Campbell, two trees Ginkgo Biloba trees were planted, to symbolize strength and resiliency in the face of overwhelming loss.

"Even though he’s higher management, he treated people the same," said the mother of Paul Magia.

She, along with her husband, Leonard, attended a brief morning service at the shooting site.

Both say the married father of three worked his way up the VTA ladder. But he loved being outdoors with his family, especially his father.

"He liked the outdoors. And so do I. So we were always together. Whether it was Yosemite. Or Lake Tahoe. Waterskiing. Fishing. We had the same likes," said Leonard Magia.

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Magia and eight other VTA employees were killed in May 2021 when coworker Sam Cassidy opened fire at the VTA Guadeloupe light rail yard.

"The most important thing we can do is show the family members that we support them. We do not forget, will not forget their loved ones," said San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan.

Experts said this crime – the worst mass killing in Bay Area history – impacts people beyond VTA workers, riders, and family members.

"Where people who were not in a position to be threatened with death or bodily harm, are still experiencing those post-trauma symptoms. Because they heard about it, they worked in the vicinity," said Dr. Karen Philbrick, executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institution.

VTA union members said they’ve been working with the transit agency to improve safety, including erecting fencing around all facilities to increase safety. These efforts to prevent the worst-case scenario from happening continue, as they paused to remember those lost during the worst crime the region has ever seen.

"What we need to start focusing on is making the customers, passengers, operators, and the frontline workers at the top of the flow chart, instead of at the bottom," said Courtney.

The pace of change is moving more slowly than union members would like.

VTA officials declined to comment, saying it’s a day to remember the victims.