A somber funeral Mass was held in University Heights, the Bronx Saturday for Yadira Arroyo, the FDNY emergency medical technician who was killed in the line of duty last week.
Family and friends of Arroyo were joined by city officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro, as they said final goodbyes during a service at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Roman Catholic Church on University Avenue.
De Blasio delivered a eulogy hailing the 14-year veteran of the department as a heroic EMT and treasured mother and friend.
"The hearts of our city are broken today. As we have to say goodbye to someone who was there for all of us in our times of need," the mayor said. "When we faced danger she was there. Now she’s been taken from us."
Vowing that the city would never forget her sacrifice, de Blasio reflected on the strength Arroyo's family has shown in the face of tragedy.
"I saw your grief first hand in the hospital but I also saw your faith and I saw your bond, strong bond running through your family," he said. "She protected, she served, she gave her all every day. And she told her sons that that was the way to live life, to serve others."
Arroyo’s son, Jose Montes, in a eulogy that earned a standing ovation, said his mother was his closest confidant but she never prepared him for goodbyes.
“She was always the only person who truly understood me. She knew me and my brothers better than we will ever know ourselves,” he said. “Mommy’s OK, guys. And we’re all OK because we all have each other.”
On the church steps after the Mass, her son, Kenneth Robles, 19, who is studying to be an emergency medical technician, was given her helmet as he wept. The helmet was presented by Joseph Jefferson, captain of Station 26 in the Bronx where Arroyo worked.
Arroyo, 44, was killed on March 16, 2017, after a carjacker ran her over with her own ambulance while she was on duty in Soundview, police said. She leaves behind five children.
Wearing dress uniforms, thousands of firefighters, EMTs and paramedics took chartered buses and the subway to mourn their slain colleague.
A solemn marching band drummed along as the FDNY ambulance carrying Arroyo's coffin arrived outside of the church. Many of those in uniform stood in formation outside, paying their respects with white-gloved salutes.
Bagpipes played "Amazing Grace" as members of the FDNY carried the coffin, draped in an American flag, into the church.
Delivering his own eulogy, Nigro described Arroyo as a vital part of the community; a hero who "served humanity to the fullest."
"In her final moments, Yadi was fighting for her patient. She was fighting to get her ambulance back so she could continue on her call because there was someone who needed her," he said. "She was bravely serving humanity, even at great personal risk."
Arroyo had been driving the ambulance south on White Plains Road, near Watson Avenue, in Soundview around 7:10 p.m., police said, when someone flagged her down to tell her a man was riding on the back bumper.
When Arroyo got out of the ambulance to investigate, the man, identified as 25-year-old Jose Gonzalez, got in the driver’s seat of the ambulance, police said.
Arroyo and her partner Monique Williams, who was a passenger in the ambulance, struggled with Gonzalez. Arroyo tried to pull him out, but he put the vehicle in reverse, knocking her to the ground, police said.
Gonzalez then drove over Arroyo, put the vehicle in drive and continued forward toward Watson Avenue, dragging her across the street, police said. He then turned left onto Watson Avenue and struck two parked cars before coming to a rest.
Gonzalez, who has 31 prior arrests, is charged with murder, grand larceny and operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs, police said.
With Matthew Chayes