Yadira Ar­royo’s death is called a tragedy by some, mur­der by oth­ers, writes

New Straits Times - - Opinion - The writer is a City Hall re­porter for ‘The New York Times’

head­ing to­wards the danger, the danger came to them.”

Her part­ner, Monique Wil­liams, stood with Ar­royo’s boyfriend, Phillip Vil­lafañe, a para­medic, for a Bi­ble read­ing dur­ing the Catholic Mass at St Ni­cholas of To­len­tine Church, but she did not speak. Wil­liams, who wit­nessed the killing, cov­ered her face with the white glove of her dress uni­form as she was guided back to her seat.

Anger over the cir­cum­stances of Ar­royo’s death coursed through the emer­gency work­ers as­sem­bled out­side, who came from across the city — from Brownsville, Brook­lyn to South Ja­maica, Queens — and from as far away as Bos­ton and Chicago. Some called it a tragedy; oth­ers mur­der. Many chafed over the fact that the man ac­cused in her killing, Jose Gon­za­lez, 25, had been re­leased on bail weeks be­fore the fa­tal en­counter.

“The way she passed was quite up­set­ting, and it would be nice if the ju­di­cial sys­tem would be able to bet­ter pro­tect our first re­spon­ders,” said a vet­eran fire­fighter from Wil­liams­burg, Brook­lyn, who gave his name only as Chris. “There’s no way I would not be here.”

Within the Fire Depart­ment’s ranks of about 4,000 emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vice work­ers, Ar­royo was the eighth med­i­cal worker killed in the line of duty in the past two decades, said a spokesman for the depart­ment, Fran­cis X. Grib­bon. She ac­com­plished in death what many said Satur­day she had also done in life: bring­ing peo­ple to­gether to share pride in the of­ten un­her­alded, but dan­ger­ous work of pro­vid­ing emer­gency med­i­cal help to those in need.

“That’s our life — you never know if you’re go­ing to be com­ing home or not,” said Com­man­der Frank Velez, a vet­eran para­medic in the Chicago Fire Depart­ment. “But that’s a risk we choose.”

The ser­vice in the church in­cluded sev­eral read­ings by mem­bers of Ar­royo’s large fam­ily as well as eu­lo­gies from de Bla­sio, the fire com­mis­sioner, Daniel A. Ni­gro, and her old­est son, Montes, 23.

“On the phone, she al­ways had to have the last good­bye,” Montes said. “One day, I tested her. She says bye, and I say bye, and she says bye. Ev­ery time. I tried to get the last good­bye, she says bye, I say bye, she says bye, and I say bye real fast and hung up the phone.” He paused. “Then I get a text from her. It says: ‘Bye-bye.’”

As he fin­ished, the hun­dreds as­sem­bled in­side the church, which is known as the Cathe­dral of the Bronx, stood to ap­plaud in a tor­rent of sup­port for him. Ar­royo’s aunt then read a mes­sage pre­pared by Ar­royo’s mother, Laida Acevedo-Rosado, who stood tear­fully be­side her. Her mes­sage re­called her daugh­ter’s child­hood in the Bronx, sur­rounded by drugs, gangs and vi­o­lence, which she over­came: “She saw sad­ness and sor­row so she be­came one who smiled.”

Out­side, after the ser­vice, Cap­tain Joseph Jef­fer­son of Sta­tion 26 pre­sented an orange hel­met from the emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vice to Ar­royo’s son Ken­neth Robles, 19, who is study­ing to be­come a med­i­cal worker. “One of her sons is fol­low­ing in her foot­steps and we’re mak­ing prepa­ra­tions to re­ceive him at our sta­tion,” Jef­fer­son said later. “He’ll ac­tu­ally work the unit that she was on.”

Ar­royo’s cof­fin, draped in an Amer­i­can flag, was placed in­side an am­bu­lance from her sta­tion, one she might have taken to a call, but which was now adorned in black and pur­ple bunt­ing and bound for Wood­lawn Ceme­tery. Over­head, flocks of birds swirled. A sin­gle po­lice he­li­copter flew low over a sea of blue uni­forms. And five red bal­loons floated to the sky.

“My heart told me to do it,” said Leti­cia Ruiz, 59, who bought and shared the bal­loons with the idea of re­leas­ing them when the cof­fin de­parted the church.

“She put her life on the line for ev­ery­one,” said Chris­tine Hen­son, 62, as she stood next to Ruiz. “It’s a sign of love.” NYT


A pic­ture of New York City Fire Depart­ment EMT Yadira Ar­royo be­ing brought into St Ni­cholas of To­len­tine Church in the Bronx dur­ing her fu­neral on Satur­day.

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