NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York City honored its hometown heroes with a ticker-tape parade through the Canyon of Heroes on Wednesday.

Among them were Metropolitan Transportation Authority and other transit workers, like Kenneth Mendez.

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For more than half of his 21 years with the MTA, Mendez has come to do his job at 207th Street on the A line, making sure subway cars are clean and safe.

Like the rest of the city, the early days of the shutdown found the underground to be eerily quiet. But still, his work continued.

“While this was going on, when the city was literately empty, the workers were out here making sure that everything was running on schedule, running on time, making the best of a bad situation,” Mendez told CBS2.

WATCH: MTA Chair Thanks Transit Workers At Hometown Heroes Parade 

Among MTA workers, as with everyone else, there was a fear of the insidious virus, and the MTA suffered a heavy toll.

“This is New York. We take a lick and we keep on ticking,” Mendez said. “When everything was closed down, we had to figure out what to do… Now, everything is slowly [reopening], because we did the right thing and everybody wore a mask and stayed away from each other.”

Before the pandemic, Mendez said he was pretty much invisible to riders. But now, all of that has changed.

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“Since this all went down, I’ve seen a lot more people come up to me and say, ‘Thanks a lot for the work you’re doing,’ or ‘How’s everything going?’ Before it was just getting on and off the train,” he said.

He said he’s thrilled to have been selected to march in the parade.

“I’m very proud to represent the New York City Transit Authority,” he said.

Mendez said this is his first ticker-tape parade. He missed out on another momentous only-in-New-York celebration decades ago.

“My brother and father, when the Mets won the World Series in 1986, went. I was still too young, and I remember that they said no, I couldn’t go,” he said.

Riding in the Canyon of Heroes on Wednesday, he made up for that in a big way. He was among the first MTA employees to get vaccinated at the Jacob Javits Center.

“We finished work, and I jumped, took the train right downtown,” he said.

He’s grateful his family is health and happy to be celebrating with the city.

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“It’s a ‘wow’ moment, for me, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and now getting a pat on the back for a job well done,” he said.

Dick Brennan