Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Worker Memorial Day
April 28, 2004
On behalf of the people of the State of Washington, I offer my deep condolences to the family and friends of the fallen workers we honor today.
Your loss is a profound and deeply painful one. Please accept our heartfelt sympathy and our prayers. Today we honor the fallen, but we also honor you—those who must courageously live on beneath a burden of unfathomable grief.
Each of the workers we honor this afternoon left home to go to work one day, expecting to return as usual. It is sad and senseless that they never made it back. It is difficult to accept that they could be taken from us so suddenly, under such terrible circumstances. And it is impossible to answer the questions that haunt us: How did this happen? Why did this happen? What does this mean?
There are no easy answers. These were everyday tragedies that happened to everyday people. Everyday tragedies with horrendous consequences in the lives of loved ones—indeed, in the lives of all of us. The lost were wives and husbands, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, brothers and sisters, grandparents, friends and sweethearts. Workplace fatalities can occur in any occupation, at any age, to any person, at any time.
Last year, nearly 100 workers died of work-related injuries and illness. These deaths occurred in every corner of our state—in 30 of our 39 counties.
We must never stop learning a simple but critically important lesson from these tragedies: we must always strive to make workplaces safer and healthier. We must make sure that every worker is alert to every potential danger or health risk. The only acceptable fatality rate is zero. Until then the work of such agencies as Labor and Industries is so critical and must be supported.
Worker Memorial Day was first observed in 1989. In the years since, we have solemnly gathered to remember hundreds of workers. Too many good people whose lives were tragically cut short.
As we gather to mourn, to reflect, and to honor today, let us also rededicate ourselves to making every workplace in our state safer and healthier. Let’s do all we can to protect every worker. Let’s strive to do our best to reach a someday when there are no fallen workers to mourn.
This is how we will best honor those we have lost. Let their legacy be one of life for others. Let the meaning of their tragic deaths be a more vigilant commitment to the health and safety of all Washington workers.
Thank you, and God Bless you.