(CNN) – Authorities in San Jose, California, said that for more than a year, employees of local public transportation fought against the dangers of COVID-19, to now be victims of another epidemic: gun violence.At least eight people died Wednesday morning when a gunman opened fire at a public transportation light rail station in San José. The victims were employees of the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA).
“These people were heroes during COVID-19, the buses didn’t stop running, the VTA didn’t stop running, they just kept working,” Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chávez said at a press conference.
“And now we really ask you to be heroes for the second time, to survive such a terrible tragedy,” added Chávez.
Authorities have not provided further details on the victims for now, but Mayor Sam Liccardo made it clear that they played a critical role in helping the community continue to function during the pandemic.
“These are and were essential workers,” Liccardo said. “They showed up every day to operate the light rail and buses to ensure that people could continue to make their living amid all the challenges of the pandemic, risking their own lives doing so.”
Wednesday’s mass shooting is the latest to kill essential American workers at their workplace.
Last month, a shooting at the FedEx facility
Last month, eight people died in a FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis when a gunman got out of his car and started shooting.
Amarjit Sekhon, 48, and Jasvinder Kaur, 50, were the mainstays of their families and members of the city’s close-knit Sikh community.
32-year-old Matthew R. Alexander was a kind and trusted friend. Karli Smith, 19, was remembered in her high school as a hardworking and dedicated student. John Weisert, 74, was a retired engineer who worked at the facility to earn extra money for his family. Samaria Blackwell, 19, dreamed of being a police officer to help people. Amarjeet Johal, 66, and Jaswinder Singh, 68, also died.
The shooting was a “horrible reminder that workers in the United States, whether they work in a grocery store or a FedEx warehouse, face increasing and unspeakable risks and threats,” said Marc Perrone, President of the Union. Food and Commerce Workers International (UFCW), it’s a statement.
“While we have rightly focused on doing more to protect essential workers from the risks of the pandemic, our corporate and elected leaders must do more to tackle the epidemic of gun violence that threatens the lives of workers.” Perrone said.
A campaign of GoFundMe verified for victims’ families.
A gunman opened fire in a grocery store
In March, 10 people died at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colorado.
Among them were Rikki Olds, 25, Denny Stong, 20, and Teri Leiker, 51, who worked at the store.
Olds, the storefront manager, wanted to be a nurse, but at the time she was “pursuing her dream of being a store manager in King Soopers,” her uncle previously said.
Leiker’s family said in a statement that at age 3 she had been diagnosed with cognitive disabilities, but that never stopped her. She began living independently at age 21 and started her first and only job at King Soopers in 1989. She was “a courtesy clerk (bagger), brought carts and helped wherever she was needed,” they said.
Stong tried to protect the others when the attacker started shooting. A friend of hers said then that he had “no doubt that he lost his life trying to save other people.”
In a recent statement, Mayor Sam Weaver called the store an “essential community asset,” adding that it “provides livelihoods, services and a hub for our community.”
– CNN’s David Williams contributed to this report.