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Slain Bronx EMT Memorialized in Soundview Mural

By Shant Shahrigian | May 30, 2017 5:27pm
 When slain Bronx EMT  Yadira Arroyo 's aunt Ali Acevedo-Hernandez saw her loved one’s likeness go up on a mural in Soundview, the work brought tears to her eyes.
Yadira Mural
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SOUNDVIEW — When slain Bronx EMT Yadira Arroyo's aunt Ali Acevedo-Hernandez saw her niece’s likeness memorialized in a neighborhood mural, she was moved to tears.

"I was really emotional," Acevedo-Hernandez said in a phone interview. "I was very touched. I hugged everyone that was there.

"I needed them to feel that what they were doing was so important to us. It was done with so much kindness. There was so much love put into it."

Arroyo's image now graces a corner of Morrison and Westchester avenues, steps away from a 6 Train stop, since May 24 — the very neighborhood where she worked as an EMT.

Arroyo’s union, Local 2507, reached out to the borough's famous graffiti artists with Tats Cru to honor their comrade, who died on March 16 when a man police identified as Jose Gonzalez stole her ambulance and ran her over blocks away from the site of the mural.

The image of Arroyo — along with a picture of FDNY Station 26 and the words "always be positive" — anchors a mural including the likenesses of fellow Bronx natives KRS-One and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

"What better way to immortalize someone who gave their life to the city of New York than by putting her image next to the likes of Judge Sonia Sotomayor?" said Joe Conzo, the former vice president of Arroyo’s union.

Conzo, 54, who’s also known for his work photographing hip-hop in the Bronx, helped the union commission Tats Cru for the job, saying the artists received an honorarium.

"For me, it’s like information that’s going to be for anybody to look at, to remember. Not like when you... read an article online and you just read it and it’s gone," said Sotero Ortiz, who goes by the name BG183, a member of the graffiti crew who painted the mural.

"But this is always going to be in your face for people to always remember."

Ortiz, 53, said the crew went through hundreds of spray paint cans over about six hours last week to depict Arroyo's larger-than-life face, adorned with the Puerto Rican flag, plus the station house and other elements.

Acevedo-Hernandez, 60, said the motto “always be positive” did justice to her niece’s worldview. Arroyo, who was 44, left behind five sons.

"She, as a child, endured a lot of hardship," Acevedo-Hernandez said of Arroyo. "She and her mother endured being homeless, being practically in the street, not knowing where the next meal was going to come from.

"Yari took all that and instead of internalizing it, she turned it around. She would always feed the hungry, she would always go to soup kitchens. She was the kindest person."

Ortiz said he hopes the mural will spark dialogue as commuters walk to the Morrison Avenue-Soundview subway stop or wait for the Bx27 bus in front of the artwork. Beneath Arroyo’s brightly colored name, the mural says she "made the supreme sacrifice.

"Even for people that never really speak to each other, it will become like a conversational piece, an educational piece," Ortiz said.

Passersby recognized Arroyo from recent headlines.

“It’s important because she is like a hero,” said Anna Medina, 38, a student. “She was a good person doing the right thing.”

Acevedo-Hernandez said Arroyo’s father-in-law, who currently works as a trucker, recently visited the mural on a trip to New York. She added that Arroyo’s mother currently lives in Florida, but plans to visit the mural and Arroyo’s grave.

“We are forever indebted to the community for the mural because this mural shows the love, the admiration and the greatness of what Yari contributed,” Acevedo-Hernandez said.

Conzo said a formal unveiling ceremony for the mural including local politicians is in the works.

"We are our brother’s keeper. We take of the community we live in and we serve," said Conzo, who's still an active EMT. "I want people to realize her sacrifice by seeing this mural."