THOUSANDS MOURN MEDICAL WORKER KILLED ON DUTY
Yadira Arroyo’s death is called a tragedy by some, murder by others, writes
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.