CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – It’s been one year since CATS bus operator 41-year-old Ethan Rivera was murdered on the job during a road rage incident.

“I look over here every day; I can’t help it,” said Lisa McCauley, a 25-year veteran bus operator. “I do routes that come past here every day; I do the route that he did.”

Friends, family, and former coworkers say his death is still hard to overcome.

“It’s been a hard year for all of us,” said a close friend and coworker. “We miss Ethan very much. The smile and his positive energy.”

They held a memorial ceremony steps away from where he lost his life.

“Ethan was a fighter. They say when he saw something that wasn’t right, he said something,” said Ashley Hawkins, president of the Charlotte Metrolina Labor Council. “Ethan was a mentor; he was tough, but he would show the younger folks the ropes with that tough love, which is solidarity in practice. Ethan was a family man, a devoted father who worked diligently to provide for his own.”

His coworkers have been working to commemorate his legacy by demanding better safety practices while they’re working. The local SMART union chapter voted 204-11, favoring a new labor contract addressing safety.

But workers say there’s still work to do.

“We do get assaulted, we get cussed out, we get spit out,” McCauley said. “Around the shield, because we have a shield, it’s not a bulletproof shield, but safety is still a huge concern.”

Four doves were released in his honor, symbolizing his death and the spirit of their guardian angel. That followed a balloon release with white balloons for Ethan’s life, black balloons for his death, and blue balloons for his CATS family.

During the ceremony, people shared Rivera’s favorite memories and talked about his impact on their lives.

“I miss him tremendously. He was my firstborn; there’s nothing that can take the place of that,” said Sylvia Rivera, Ethan’s mother. “I just don’t want his death to be in vain; I want you guys to fight; I want you guys to be safe; I want you guys to go home, Ethan never made it home, and that was his last ride.”

A large Puerto Rican flag was given to his mother as well.

Everyone in attendance signed it.