NYC Transit Interim President Sarah Feinberg appeared live today on PIX11 Morning News with Dan Mannarino and Betty Nguyen to discuss this week’s launch of "TRAVELS FAR”, a memorial honoring MTA colleagues lost to COVID-19, on digital screens at more than 100 subway stations throughout the system.
A transcript of the interview appears below.
Betty Nguyen: Subway riders may notice a new edition to dozens of stations, a tribute to the MTA workers who have lost their lives to COVID-19.
Dan Mannarino: A memorial honoring the 136 employees who died from the virus now on digital screens all around the city. New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg joining us this morning to tell us more about this and what it really took to bring all of this together. Sarah, good morning to you. Thanks for being here this morning.
Sarah Feinberg: Good morning. Good to see you.
Mannarino: So I was just reading about this and it's just incredible. You know, last week we watched as President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris pay tribute to all of the lives lost to COVID. It really felt like the beginning of a healing process for those lives, right? Is it the same feeling behind this memorial for MTA workers? 136 employees lost.
Feinberg: It is. I mean, look, we've got a long way to go and these families have a long way to go before they are ever going to feel like they've healed or finished grieving. But this is at least a step in the process. You know, we have been dealing with this pandemic since March, we lost our first colleagues in March and, you know, we still can't gather as a family or as a group, and bring everyone together. And so for us, this is an opportunity to really honor our colleagues and show them how much we loved them, and we miss them. And frankly, also give New Yorkers an opportunity to enter our system and pay their respects as well.
Nguyen: Yeah, Sarah, just watching these photos, scroll there so slowly, it just reminds you that behind every face is a family that's still grieve-- grieving that is. How long did it take for this memorial to come together and were the families involved in it?
Feinberg: Yeah, well, first of all, that's exactly what I think every time I watch it. You know, we stay on the faces for a long time. We don't go through them fast because we want people to really look at those faces and understand the loss that's there. But the families did participate, yes. We asked them to share photos with us of their loved ones that really kind of reflect their personality and who they were. So, you know, we have one whose pet parrot is on his shoulder in the photo, you know, we have big smiles, we have sort of mischievous grins, you know, we have someone who is dressed up in a tuxedo. It's really a reflection of who these people were.
Mannarino: You know Sarah, it's just, it's incredible because you hear the numbers of lives lost right? Each and every single day we sit here, and we report those numbers, but to see the face of an individual and their story, it connects you to a family. The name of the memorial is TRAVELS FAR. So what is the significance behind that title?
Feinberg: Well, that's exactly right. You see the name Clarence Roman, but it doesn't, it might not mean enough to you until you actually get to see his face and meet his wife and understand that they've been together since they were 12 years old, and what their family was like. And so look, TRAVELS FAR is I think, you know, a perfect sort of name for this memorial and this tribute. We approached a former U.S. Poet Laureate, Tracy Smith, and asked her to write a poem, especially for this. So it's a unique poem. It's not one that's been out there before, it's commissioned especially for this piece and it's such a beautiful poem and reflective of our colleagues.
Nguyen: It's just so hard to see so many faces, slowly scroll there, because it does remind you the impact here. So when and where can this memorial be viewed and for how long?
Feinberg: So every single day in our system, three times a day, 10:30 in the morning, 2:30 in the afternoon and 8:30 at night. It's in more than 100 of our stations, 130-some different locations in those stations on our digital screens. And so it's really an opportunity for friends and family and loved ones, but again for New Yorkers, to come into the system and to pay their respects and sort of see and feel for themselves, the losses that we've seen. But it's also online, so for people around the country, you know, and around the world, families that are, you know, spread out, loved ones that are spread out, they can also go to the webpage and see it.
Mannarino: You know, I think this is just so important because remembering lives lost is such a huge part of this pandemic. And also remembering that New York City Transit and the MTA is the lifeblood and really the heart and soul of what keeps New York City up and running. And so you connect those two, I just want to pivot to ask you then, about service with people going down in to see this memorial. Any news about when overnight subway service could actually come back between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.? I know you said when the pandemic is over, but a lot of people wondering and continue to ask us that question. So just relaying it to you.
Feinberg: Yeah, of course. So we're still talking about the end of the pandemic. I mean, our priority right now is to continue to run as much service as we can, make sure essential workers can get where they need to go. You know, clean, disinfect -- we're still cleaning and disinfecting twice a day and in the overnight hours -- and frankly vaccinating our employees, our workforce. You know, we are working day in and day out to make sure that we can get as many vaccines into arms as possible.
Nguyen: Yes it’s a very delicate dance and requires a lot of moving parts. Sarah, thank you so much for joining us today. We do appreciate it. It’s a very beautiful memorial.
Feinberg: Thank you so much. Thank you.