Family, friends and members of the FDNY gathered in the Bronx Thursday for a wake honoring EMT Yadira Arroyo, who was killed in the line of duty last week.
“It’s amazing to see the city come together,” said Sonia Agron, a retired FDNY EMS worker. “Heaven’s gain is our loss.”
It was standing-room only for both the afternoon and evening services at the Joseph A. Lucchese Funeral Home, with hundreds outside standing in a line that wrapped around the block, waiting to pay their respects.
“It is important to show up. We need the support,” said Stacy Esparra, a former FDNY paramedic who now works as a nurse at NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital in Westchester County. “We put our lives on the line and risk our lives every day.”
Nancy Rivera and her colleagues from the Jersey City Medical Center waited an hour to enter the funeral home, where the mood was “very somber and very sad,” she said.
“We are one family coming together to give support to each other,” Rivera added. “We are all devastated. We cannot get that poor girl out of our minds.”
Alvin Suriel, EMS Bronx division commander, said the turnout and support from the community is a testament to Arroyo, who he called an “absolute hero.”
“The amount of support we have gotten from all over the country has been overwhelming,” he said. “And we’ve gotten tremendous support from the other boroughs to fill in so our members can mourn, and it’s been pretty amazing.”
Arroyo, a 14-year veteran with the fire department, was killed last Thursday when a carjacker managed to get behind the wheel of her ambulance in Soundview and ran her over with it as she struggled to take control of the vehicle, police said.
The day after her death, Arroyo’s colleagues at EMS Station House 26 remembered her as a dedicated civil servant who loved her five children.
Agron said she was able to offer her condolences to the eldest of Arroyo’s children during the afternoon service.
“I was able to meet the family and thank them for their mother’s service,” she said. “I am proud that I was able to salute her casket.”
Afterward, several hundred EMS and firefighters, dressed in their blues, stood at attention in front of the funeral home before they were dismissed until the next viewing.
Over at the nearby New Morris Deli & Grocery on Holland Avenue, a window-sized photo of Arroyo was on display.
Deli owner Sal Alghathi, 35, knew Arroyo. Dressed in a black suit jacket and maroon tie in honor of his loyal customer, he said the whole neighborhood is devastated.
“It’s a big loss. She was a regular since 2008 ... Always friendly with a smile on her face,” said Alghathi, adding that her favorite lunch orders were a Philly cheesesteak and a grill chicken wrap. “She was a real stand up person with a great personality.”
The man accused in Arroyo’s death, Jose Gonzalez, 25, is charged with murder, grand larceny and operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs, police said. He was expected in court on Wednesday, but waived the appearance.
The wake continued Friday with two more services. A funeral service for Arroyo will be held at St. Nicholas of Tolentine R.C. Church in University Heights on Saturday.
With Alison Fox and Nicole Brown