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Reflecting on Workers Memorial Day

By Doug Parker, Executive Director

I make a point of reading Jordan Barab’s excellent blog, Confined Space. Jordan provides great news and commentary on what is happening in occupational health and safety. I especially appreciate the work he puts into sharing news stories from across the nation about workers who are killed on the job. Those stories, and those workers, deserve our attention. 

Earlier this month I was scrolling through the stories and noticed one was about a worker from my hometown. I clicked on the link to the news article and after some further searching realized it was a guy who was two years behind me in high school. Bobby Blevins, Jr., was a 47 year old truck driver with a wife, a daughter, and a granddaughter. He was electrocuted when the frame of his truck’s tarp cover came into contact with power lines. 

I didn’t know Bobby very well. I had to look through an old yearbook to match the middle-aged man being eulogized on Facebook with the teenage Bobby I finally recognized. From social media I pieced together a sketch of his life since high school. There was a recent picture of him proudly smiling behind the wheel of a new red dump truck, his employer’s name painted on the door. He loved to work on cars and motorcycles and race at the local drag strip. 

A friend recalled how he and Bobby talked on the phone every morning at 3:30 a.m. before the work day started, just to check in and see how one another were doing. Another remembered how Bobby mentored him as a driver. Lots of people remembered how he made them laugh.

Several people commented on Bobby’s generosity and sense of community. I learned that when a local child needed specialized medical care, Bobby auctioned off his prized Harley Davidson motorcycle in order to contribute to the child’s medical fund. Bobby didn’t know the child or his family.

As Workers Memorial Day approaches, please take a moment to reflect not only on the workers we have lost, but also on the incalculable loss to the loved ones and communities left behind. Because every worker who dies has a story, and it deserves our attention.