17 MTA NYCT Workers Honored for Dedication, Acts of Bravery
Would you know what to do if a woman goes into labor on your bus?
Bus operator Norton Cockburn did. He kept a steady head and helped the woman deliver a healthy baby, all while making sure the other customers on his Q9 bus were safe and keeping an eye on the student bus operator he was teaching.
Cockburn was one of 17 New York City Transit workers who were honored on Thursday, April 6, by the Daily News, which called him one of their Hometown Heroes in Transit. The annual Hometown Heroes in Transit award, which honors subway and bus workers for outstanding achievements or acts of bravery performed in the year prior, was chosen by a panel of the newspaper’s editors and reporters. Nominations were opened to the public in November 2016.
On August 3, 2016, Cockburn was on the Q9 route in Jamaica with a student trainee when a pregnant customer boarded. She said she did not feel well and was going to the hospital, so he kept an eye on her as he continued instructing the trainee. But when the bus reached 150th Street and Jamaica Avenue, he heard her scream and cry out: “My water burst! Driver, driver, my water burst!”
Cockburn sprang into action, instructing the trainee to pull the bus over and allow other customers to leave. He also spotted three police officers across the street and beckoned them over for help. But there was no time to head for the hospital: the baby was going to be born on the floor of the Q9.
Cockburn, the student trainee and another customer waited with the soon-to-be mother, assuring her and keeping her calm and as comfortable as possible as she sat on the floor holding tightly to a seat.
“Hold on, everything will be alright,” he told her.
When EMS arrived, Cockburn and his trainee stood guard, making sure she had privacy while she gave birth to a baby boy. He grabbed a pile of paper towels to swaddle the newborn until a blanket could be found. After the birth, EMS drove the mother and child to Jamaica Hospital.
MTA Interim Executive Director Ronnie Hakim said, “New York City is the city that never sleeps because of the hard work and dedication of our transit workers, who help move more than 8 million people every day of the year. When our customers are sleeping or taking a snow day, our workers are keeping the MTA’s vital network running. We can’t thank them enough for the work they do every day, let alone the times when they go beyond their duties to save a customer’s life or prevent a crime from happening,” she said. “It’s terrific to see the New York Daily News recognize these unsung heroes, whom we all thank for their service and dedication.”
The other Daily News’ Hometown Heroes in Transit are:
Signal maintainer David Martinez, who revived an unconscious co-worker that fell onto the third rail by recalling something he learned from reading a newspaper: performing hands-only CPR by doing chest compressions to the beat of the Bee Gees’ 1977 hit “Stayin’ Alive.” Signal helper Monique Braithwaite regained consciousness and continues to recover from the incident on October 7, 2016.
Conductor Warren Cox was on platform duty at 59 St-Lexington Av when he noticed a woman holding tightly to a 9-year-old child, both standing precariously close to the platform edge. Other customers had overheard her making suicidal statements and notified Cox, who went over to speak with them. He stood between the family and the platform, calming the woman until police arrived. He credited the other customers to alerting him and assisting in the situation, saying: “If they weren’t there, I’m loath to think of what could have happened.” Similarly, train operator Trina Hayes’ training and situational awareness became life-saving skills on April 2, 2016, when she noticed a man walking on the tracks in front of her Rockaway shuttle train. She began speaking with the man, who replied that he was suicidal. She inched the train closer to him and persuaded him to climb off the tracks and onto her train. She and two other customers pulled him into the motorman’s cab, and the train pulled into Broad Channel, where they waited for help to arrive for the man.
Station cleaner Darren Johnson had a busy day at the Lexington Av-63 St station on August 18, 2016. A man had allegedly inappropriately touched a female customer on the northbound F platform, and Johnson chased the man up four levels through the station. He held the man until police officers arrived to arrest him. Then, minutes after he was done filing the police report, he was notified of a small fire in a trash bin at a station entrance, and quickly out the flames with a fire extinguisher. He called it just “one of those days.”
Bus operator Diana Belgrave’s life was under threat, but her first thought was her customers. On December 20, 2016, a customer boarded her M4 bus and began threatening other customers with a knife. When she asked him to stop, he turned on her, saying: “You’re next.” Belgrave kept her cool, stopping the bus and opening the door to order him to leave. The man fled, but not before trying to attack her through the partition that protects bus operators. She drove the bus to another stop, called for help, and flagged down another bus to allow her customers to continue their trips. The man was later arrested by police.
Bus operator Darrick Gatling is the founder of MAD Focus, which stands for Motivation (plus) Ambition (plus) Determination (equals) Focus, a group that helps disadvantaged and homeless children. In addition to his work as a bus operator out of the Jackie Gleason Depot, he also organized toy drives, giveaways and food drives.
Track worker Maurice "Moe" Jackson runs a basketball program at P.S. 15 in Queens, putting in hours at the school on Saturdays after putting in hours at his job. He and 10 other volunteers hold tournaments as their way of giving back to the community. He also coaches the school’s basketball team during the week.
Conductors Jermaine St-Hilaire, Vladimir Nolasco and Shakeia Owens saved a man who fell onto the southbound tracks at 86 St and then became disoriented and tried to walk into the tunnel. The conductors stopped an incoming train from entering the station as they located the man and guided him back to the station, then helped him up onto the platform where emergency medical services had arrived.
Track workers Paul Hayes, Darrell Nelson and Greg Cawley helped revive a colleague who collapsed just as he arrived to a work site beneath the elevated tracks on the line. Cawley prevented Adrian Shields from hitting his head on the pavement, while Nelson cleared his airway and Hayes began chest compressions until Shields began breathing again. FDNY, which responded within minutes, told the group they probably saved their colleague’s life. Shields recovered later at a hospital and has since retired.
Conductor Joella Irving’s keen eyes and ears saved a semi-conscious man in a wheelchair from falling off the platform at 42 St-Grand Central. She was directing customer flow at the northbound express platform when she heard on her walkie-talkie that a man in a wheelchair was dangerously close to the platform edge. She ran across the station and found the man, nodding off in his wheelchair as its wheels teetered in the platform edge. She pulled his wheelchair back and locked the wheels in position, and the man regained consciousness, he moved himself to a more secure position, she said.
Conductors Ayana Arroyo and D’Atra Felder embodied MTA’s safety mantra of “See Something, Say Something.” The two were on platform duty at the 59 St-Columbus Circle hub when they noticed, out of a sea of customers, one particular rider who looked lost and scared. He wanted to find a particular train line, but they sensed he needed more help than just directions. The two conductors calmed the 23-year-old man with special needs, earning his trust that he told them he had forgotten how to return to his Brooklyn home, in a neighborhood not serviced by the train line he asked about. Instead, the conductors convinced him to walk to the police station inside of the subway station and remained with him until he was comfortable enough with officers to identify himself and give them his home number. Officers were able to contact his mother, who arrived at the station to pick him up. Officers later commended Arroyo and Felder for their strong communication skills, professionalism and patience.