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.READ MORE: New York City Rolls Out $100 Incentive For Getting Vaccinated As CDC Report Warns Delta Variant As Contagious As Chicken Pox
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.READ MORE: Broadway Vaccine Mandate: Audiences Must Be Vaccinated And Masked; Performers, Crew And Staff Required To Be Vaccinated
“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.
“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.MORE NEWS: Why Is The Delta Variant More Contagious? Should You Still Get Vaccinated? Dr. Max Gomez Answers The Latest COVID Questions
“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.