Source: US Amalgamated Transit Union
Dozens of black, red and silver balloons drifted through the air in Southwest Baltimore’s Carroll Park neighborhood park as people chanted “not one more.” They gathered to remember Marcus Parks Sr. who was killed last week while on the job after 20 years as a Maryland Transit Administration bus driver.
With a nod to Parks’ love for basketball, about 200 people, many of them colleagues, congregated around a court to console his family.
“Marcus Parks was a member of my family,” MTA Administrator Kevin Quinn said, talking directly to employees. “And now you’re all a part of my family. We stand with you and we support you.”
Quinn said he had “numerous” conversations with Parks and he was “never shy about telling me how he felt about routes and what we needed to do to improve the administration.” The administrator praised Parks’ work ethic and said the agency would be better off if they had more employees like him.
While many mourners recalled Parks for his work ethic, outspoken personality and can-do attitude as a bus driver, his 25-year-old son Aaron Parks remembered him as a father.
The younger Parks said his dad instilled upon him and his two brothers the importance of responsibility from a young age. He has vivid memories of taking out the trash and doing other chores as early as 3-years-old and said they were raised like “men, not children.”
“He told us when we were younger it was just in case my mom or him died suddenly and so we’d be ready,” Aaron said. “And I know we were never ready for this fully but we were as prepared as we could’ve been because of him.”
Parks, 51, was fatally shot after he stopped his bus around 10:30 a.m. Thursday to let off all the passengers in the 1200 block of E. Fayette St. at the edge of the Jonestown neighborhood. A couple, including a man with a gun, tried to get on the bus without paying fares, according to police.
When Parks refused to let them board, the woman allegedly grabbed Parks’ backpack and the couple ran off. Parks followed on foot, and the man opened fire on Parks, according to police.
Numerous elected officials, including Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott, Del. Brooke Lierman, Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson and former NAACP president and Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous also attended the vigil.
John Costa, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, and local ATU 1300 president Mike McMillan, who represents more than 1,500 MTA workers, attended the vigil and urged lawmakers in attendance to help pass legislation to make buses a safer environment for workers.
“Not a day goes by where I don’t hear about a bus operator getting spit on, kicked, stabbed or injured,” Costa said. “And this is just not what we signed up for — to come to work and get killed.”
Tawanda Davis worked with Parks for about 20 years and considered him to be her “gentle giant” brother. She said the two often talked and Parks was “always uplifting” and gave great advice.
Parks’ death has left Davis stunned — and more concerned for her safety.
“You know someone for 20 years and in 20 seconds their life is taken,” she said. “I’m angry. It could’ve been any of us.”
The MTA worker of 25 years expressed frustration that the individuals, like those who police say killed Parks, who have a history of violence against bus drivers are allowed to continue using public transportation. Davis said as society continues to evolve, so should laws because transportation employees are having to deal with more now than they did years ago.
“Our lives need to be seen as equal as anyone else,” she said. “Because who wakes up in the morning and says I’m not coming home from work today?”