VAN NEST —An enormous line of EMTs stretched around the block of the John A. Lucchese Funeral Home on Thursday as mourners gathered to honor their slain colleague and friend Yadira Arroyo.
"We lost a sister. We're in mourning. We're in shock, still," said paramedic Alex Tull, one of Arroyo's coworkers. "But while getting through this, we're remembering the good times. We're remembering Yadi's laughter. I know that's been said a lot, but it was very contagious."
Arroyo's wake took place at the Morris Park Avenue funeral home on Thursday, with the first session of visiting hours running from 2 to 4 p.m.
Another visiting session is planned for 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, and sessions are scheduled for the same times and place on Friday as well.
Colleagues described her as being like a mother and sister to them. They praised her as someone who genuinely cared about her work and the patients she took care of.
"She has been one of the most competent, well-respected and most caring individuals I have ever worked with," said paramedic David Cadogan, who had been a colleague of Arroyo's for 14 years. "In this field, your name is your reputation."
Arroyo was killed on March 16 after 25-year-old suspect Jose Gonzalez stole her ambulance and backed it over her by Watson Avenue and White Plains Road in The Bronx, prosecutors said.
Gonzalez has had 25 cases with the Bronx District Attorney's Office, including one just a few weeks before Arroyo's death when Judge David Kirschner released him without bail following his arrest for a robbery where he was accused of taking a swing at a police officer and shattering the window of a police van.
Gonzalez has been charged with murder in Arroyo's death and was due in court on Wednesday but declined to appear, a decision met with derision by the large crowd of EMTs who had shown up to support their beloved fallen colleague. He is being held at Bellevue Hospital without bail.
Arroyo's funeral is scheduled for Saturday at St. Nicholas of Tolentine R.C. Church at 2345 University Ave.
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro attended the wake on Thursday afternoon and repeatedly described Arroyo as a hero.
"It's a tremendous sign of respect here for our fallen hero Yadi Arroyo," he said. "People have been lined up all day. I'm sure they'll be lined up tonight and tomorrow and Saturday at the funeral. She certainly lived as a hero and died as a hero for the city."