A death in the family: Alison Russo lived a life of service

FDNY EMS Lt. Alison Russo woke up Thursday morning to do what she had been doing for nearly 25 years: helping New Yorkers in their times of crisis. Unbeknownst to her, it would be her final shift.

In the early afternoon, Russo was felled by a senseless and seemingly random knife attack by a disturbed individual. It is an aching irony that the longtime EMT and paramedic surely would have rushed to this same individual’s aid in another circumstance. Instead, untreated schizophrenia seems to have erupted yet again into bloody violence.

The 61-year-old Lt. Russo served in multiple stations since joining EMS in 1998, having been at Station 49 in Queens’ Ditmars-Steinway since last year. She was a relatively green three-year EMT when she joined thousands of fellow uniformed personnel to respond to the greatest disaster and gravest attack in the city’s history on Sept. 11, 2001. The next year, she would be promoted to paramedic, before attaining the rank of lieutenant in 2016.

After this distinguished career, Russo was set to reach a well-deserved retirement in six months’ time. The grandchildren awaited. Instead, she has become the 1,158th FDNY member to die in the line of duty. That it happened the same day as a court appearance for the accused murderer of EMT Yadira Arroyo, crushed by her own ambulance in 2017, only accentuates the pain.

Though typically not the first to come to mind for New Yorkers considering the great personal risk faced by uniformed personnel, EMS responders routinely confront dangerous situations and unstable people. They too often do so while overworked and without the proper equipment.

As Russo is laid to rest after her remarkable tour of duty, our thoughts should be with her family and with how we can safeguard all who put on the uniform.