Memorial, ceremonies to mark one year since VTA mass shooting

Today marks one year since the mass shooting at the Santa Clara VTA Guadalupe light rail yard that claimed 10 lives: Nine employees were killed by a co-worker and one person who witnessed the shooting died by suicide weeks later.

The gunman was also killed.

There were a series of events planned to pay tribute to the victims and survivors, including a private memorial at the yard.  

A candlelight vigil at 6:30 a.m. was for employees and their families only. During the vigil, a VTA train blew its horn 10 times in honor of each of the men who died.

"My hope is that we continue to heal and move forward, we will never forget those we lost or the loved ones they left behind. But we can together make VTA a better place in memory of them, and of the community we serve," said Carolyn Gonot, VTA CEO and general manager. 

To honor their co-workers, a group of employees also built an eternal flame. It took them months to design and weld the special tribute. That torch was officially lit at the memorial today.

The memorial was meant to pay tribute to the victims, but it also served as a reminder of the work that needs to continue to be done to support each other.

Following the shooting, Santa Clara County, in partnership with the VTA, created the 526 Resiliency Center.   

"What that really is is it’s a place for employees and the community to be able to go to get the therapy and counseling and support they need," said county supervisor Cindy Chavez. "One of the things we have to recognize as a society is that many people in our community – nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers, police officers, firefighters – everyday deal with trauma. And learning how to process that in a way that’s healthy is really what our highest goal needs to be, and so I think we’re learning. We’re not getting everything right, but we’re working to get everything right." 

The center also helps raise awareness about workplace violence. 

Earlier this week, the San Jose City Council honored the victims with a moment of silence and the names of each victim were read aloud. The city also officially proclaimed today as a day of remembrance.

Two weeks ago, the VTA demolished Building B, where most of the victims were shot and killed in an effort to support the emotional needs of the employees who experienced the tragedy. There were nearly 100 people in the yard that day.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney also hosted a memorial at the new 526 Resiliency Center, thanking the first responders who were called to the VTA light rail yard a year ago.

"These heroes rushed, sirens on, towards the sound of gunfire at the VTA rail yard, they burst through doors even though they didn’t know what was behind them or what they had done. They ran towards bodies, that day they showed the courage and compassion, the selflessness that frankly they show every day," said Santa Clara County DA Jeff Rosen.

Victims' families were also able to speak. Karrey Benbow, the mother of Jose Luis Hernandez, who was shot and killed, thanked the first responders for what they did that day. 

But she also said the shooting could've been prevented "had people listened to the complaints of my son and the co-workers who are not here today."

The mass shooting in Uvalde, TX earlier this week was also heavy on the hearts of many. 

"It only gets harder when you continue to hear that the kind of incident that happened to us is still happening to other people around this country. We’re trying to heal the best we can," said Stacey Hendler Ross, the public information officer for the VTA.

"For anybody who’s been through such a traumatic event to lose a loved one, as the families of the VTA men did, every single time there’s another event it’s triggering for them," said Chavez.

Tonight the City Hall rotunda will also be lit up in white, light blue & dark blue – the colors of the VTA. 

Some VTA service will be impacted today as nine light rail operators will not be working their regular shift, so nine trains will not be running.