By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
Local 3621 EMS Lieutenant Alison Russo-Elling, a 25-year veteran of the Fire Department of New York, was stabbed to death while on duty in a random and unprovoked attack less than a block from her worksite at Fire Station 49 in Astoria, Queens on Sept. 29.
Lt. Russo was rushed to nearby Mount Sinai Hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries.
“Lt. Russo was a beautiful person who loved her family and served this city well,” said Vincent Variale, president of Uniformed EMS Officers Union Local 3621. “This horrendous act demonstrates that EMS officers take on the same risks as other first responders and don’t receive the same recognition for their labor.”
Lt. Russo joined the FDNY in 1998 and rose through the civil service ranks. She was a paramedic and a first responder at the World Trade Center during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A dedicated public servant, Lt. Russo also volunteered with the Huntington Rescue Squad on Long Island where she lived.
Lt. Russo was in uniform when her attacker fatally stabbed her multiple times in the neck and chest, according to news reports. Local 3621 President Variale said, “Lt. Russo was waiting for roadside assistance to come and repair her FDNY vehicle. While she waited, a civilian told her there was someone having a medical emergency. She responded to investigate when the murderer walked up to her and ended her life. She died while responding to an emergency and performing her duties.”
The murder stunned New Yorkers and sent shockwaves through the corps of DC 37 members. Governor Kathy Hochul ordered flags to fly at half-staff until Russo is laid to rest.
Acting Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh called Russo’s murder “a barbaric and completely unprovoked attack.
“Members of EMS serve only to help and save other people’s lives,” Kavanagh said. “To be attacked and killed in the course of helping others is both heartbreaking and enraging for our department in ways I cannot describe.”
“Maybe if she had a partner who saw this guy coming this could have been avoided,” said Variale. “EMS workers’ jobs are as dangerous as police and firefighters, yet we are not treated the same.”
President Variale explained that FDNY “EMS officers do not get breaks—they are on call to help save lives 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They are the only first responders who respond alone. There is no driver, no partner, no aide, just a steadfast commitment to save the public when in need.”
The union continues to press for parity as first responders and to have aides assigned to EMS lieutenants without success.
“We lost one of our heroes,” said a visibly shaken Mayor Eric Adams. “She was on duty, doing her job, saving the people of the City of New York. That was her role and that’s the role of the countless men and women who are … saving New Yorkers.”
“Every day, they do their job in a manner in which many of us don’t realize how dangerous it is,” Adams said. “She was working for this city. She paid the ultimate sacrifice because of that.”
After an hours-long standoff, police took Russo-Elling’s alleged killer into custody and charged him with murder and weapons possession.
Lt. Russo is the second FDNY EMS member to be violently murdered while on duty. In 2017, FDNY EMT Yadira Arroyo, a Local 2507 member, was killed in the Bronx by an ambulance hijacker. To date, 1,158 FDNY firefighters and EMS members have died in the line of duty.
“We mourn the passing of our union sister Local 3621 Lt. Alison Russo-Elling. We honor her 25-year career of dedicated service and bravery in providing emergency care for the community,” said DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido. “Our members take on very difficult jobs serving the public that all too often place them in harm’s way. My deepest condolences to Lt. Russo-Elling’s loved ones and the entire Local 3621 family on this tragic loss.”
The mayor and FDNY acting commissioner promoted Lt. Alison Russo to FDNY captain posthumously at her funeral on Oct. 5.