Workers’ Memorial Day is a day to commemorate those who have been killed, injured, or made sick by their jobs, and an opportunity to promote methods to end preventable workplace accidents and illnesses. In 1985 Canada observed the first Workers’ Memorial Day on April 28, the anniversary of the Workers Compensation Act of 1914. Just four years later the United States also adopted the commemorative day, and today it is recognized across the world. Statistics from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimate that every year over two million people die due to work-related accidents and illnesses, or one worker every 15 seconds worldwide.
Until today I had only visited one workers’ memorial. In 2007 Chris and I took a brief trip to West Virginia and on the way back he decided to take a detour near Afton Mountain. We had been dating for a couple of months and I wasn’t sure why he was anxious to take us so far out of the way. Eventually we pulled up to a beautiful scenic overlook and he told me he’d brought me there to tell me he loved me. I’ll always know exactly where we were that first time he said those words to me because that scenic overlook is also home to the VDOT Workers Memorial, a granite memorial honoring 131 state highway transportation workers who died doing their jobs between 1928 and 2005. The serenity of the overlook offers the perfect atmosphere for the memorial.
Unfortunately Chris and I could not attend any of the official Workers’ Memorial Day events in D.C. during our work day, but we wanted to honor the day of remembrance by visiting a workers’ memorial. After some deliberation we decided to go to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Employees’ Memorial at Metro Center in Washington, D.C. The granite memorial is inscribed with the names of 26 employees who have died in the line of duty since 1980. We wanted to visit this memorial in particular because the D.C. metro is a vital part of the transportation system in Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. and we’ve ridden it many times as we’ve travelled the region to celebrate various days during our year of living unofficially. So much of what we do wouldn’t be possible without the sacrifices and hard work of hundreds of metro employees.