SEPTA honors frontline workers at Suburban Station

Station Manager Garry Deans poses next to his photo on a tribute wall for SEPTA workers at Suburban Station.
PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

A wall inside the underground concourse of SEPTA’s Suburban Station now pays homage to 28 frontline transit workers.

Officials unveiled the installation, which will remain for three months, Thursday morning. It’s the first of several that will be placed at various points along the public transportation system, authority leaders said.

“The dedication our employees show is just unbelievably important to the SEPTA family,” SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale “Pat” Deon Sr. said. “This wall’s just a start.”

Under each photo, it lists the employee’s name, position and their years with SEPTA.

Regional Rail Station Manager Garry Deans, one of the featured employees, is in Center City every morning at about 3 a.m. to open Suburban and Jefferson stations, two of the authority’s busiest hubs.

“With me being the first one on the scene, I know for a fact that it’s necessary for me to get here, to get the station open, make everything good and ready for employees, such as hospital employees and other necessary essential personnel, to get in town and get to work,” he said.

“That’s the kind of drive that gets me up everyday and brings me in to do what I do,” added Deans, who’s worked for SEPTA for 25 years.

SEPTA employee Victoria Hickerson poses next to her photo on a tribute wall honoring frontline transit workers at Suburban Station.PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

Deans isn’t new to the spotlight. Back in 2012, he was in the news after he helped save the life of a man who suffered sudden cardiac arrest and collapsed at 30th Street Station.

At Thursday’s unveiling, Dean, with a big smile and thumb in the air, posed for pictures next to his photo on the tribute wall.

“What brings us to work everyday is we feel we’re a necessary component here in Philadelphia as a transit agency,” he said.

The event opened with a moment of silence for the transit workers who have died during the pandemic.

SEPTA has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. More than 350 employees have tested positive since March, and eight have died of COVID-19-related complications.

Ridership has plummeted, leaving the authority in a tight financial situation. Even though it received $643 million from the federal CARES Act, SEPTA still anticipates losing $400 million over three years and putting the breaks on $250 million worth of capital projects as a result of the virus.

SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards speaks Thursday, Oct. 8, at the unveiling of a tribute wall for frontline transit workers.PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

Peter Grollman, of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, showed up to see the wall and thank SEPTA workers. He said nearly 20,000 employees at his hospital rely on the transit system to get to work.

“SEPTA has not stopped for a single minute,” Leslie Richards, the authority’s general manager, said. “It is an honor to show our appreciation and to honor these specific frontline workers, but they are representing all of our frontline workers.”

“We will come out stronger than ever before together,” she added.

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