JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Department of Labor held a somber ceremony in the Capitol today to honor state workers that were killed on the job in the last year.
The event is an annual one, and Department Director Ryan McKenna told some of the families of fallen workers that were present that the ceremony was meant to “honor” not “forget” those fallen.
“We’re here to mourn them and, more importantly, we’re here to honor them,” McKenna said. “We’re here to make sure they aren’t forgotten. We haven’t forgotten them.”
Eighty-three workers died on the job in 2014, according to the Department of Labor. Thirteen families RSVP’d to the event. The families in attendance were given a Dogwood sapling and a flag flown above the Missouri Capitol.
Joining McKenna were lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, and Rep. Jacob Hummel, D-St. Louis, joined McKenna and spoke to the families, thanking them for the service of their loved ones.
“We aren’t choosing to forget, we’re choosing to remember,” Schmit said. “This solemn occasion should cause us all to take a moment and reflect on what’s most important to us.”
The Boone County Fire Protection District Pipes and Drums provided an extended rendition of “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes while a video tribute played on a projector featuring brief words of affection from family members of the fallen. The 83 workers positions varied wildly throughout the state, and the youngest honored workers were 22 years old.
“I think it’s appropriate to note that Dogwoods are beginning to bloom,” Pearce said. “They’re coming out of a cold and dark winter and they’re going to bloom, and there’s an important lesson there.”
McKenna told The Missouri Times that the Department of Labor hoped to be able to construct a permanent monument on the State Capitol grounds in the coming years, but needed more funds and an official location designated by the Office of Administration. The Worker Memorial Fund is a long way from having enough funds to build a monument, McKenna said, and department officials were currently exploring the best way to beef up the fund and begin construction.
Collin Reischman is the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. To contact Collin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @CMReischman