VTA workers construct 'eternal flame' memorial for coworkers killed in mass shooting
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Next week will mark the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at a Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority light rail yard that claimed 10 lives. To honor those coworkers, a group of employees constructed a special tribute — an eternal flame.
It started with the flicker of an idea: a way to honor the friends they lost one year ago.
And now after months of designing, welding and assembling, the eternal flame is finally taking shape.
"It's more their souls will live on through the flame every time its lit, every time we see it," says Jamal Gettone, a VTA transit mechanic who came up with the concept.
It was something co-workers felt they needed, with the anniversary of VTA's mass shooting fast approaching on May 26th.
9 employees were killed that day, a 10th died by suicide in the weeks that followed.
"It was a horrendous loss and this is just a tidbit of what we could do to try to comfort our fellow coworkers and the families of the victims," says Eliseo Acosta Jr, an O&R mechanic who is also working on the project.
To build the torch, workers started with a propane heater. They then gathered the details that would make it special: a bit of light rail overhead line, bent into a ribbon, some railroad ties crossed to make a Roman numeral ten, and the names of those who died, carefully engraved.
They say they couldn't have done it without the help of Bigelows Machining in San Jose and Advance Laser and Water Jet Cutting in Fremont.
"We had some real close friends. Tragic day. I'm just hoping that can give them justice," says Gettone.
Once it's finished, the eternal flame will be moved to a private spot at the Guadalupe Yard and lit.
Those who built it say the process has been healing, they hope their co-workers feel that too.
"I just hope they can connect to it, kinda like I'm doing right now. i don't want them to be sad, but just to remember," says Gettone..
The torch will be officially lit at VTA's private memorial next week. They plan to use it to light the first of the candles for the vigil.