By Bill Parry
The FDNY honored fallen EMS Captain Alison Russo Wednesday with a plaque dedication ceremony at Station 49 in Astoria, where she was stationed just over a year ago when she was stabbed to death in a random attack. Hundreds of firefighters and EMS personnel joined FDNY brass inside Station 49 to pay tribute to the 61-year-old, who was a 25-year veteran of the NYPD.
“Captain Russo wasn’t just an officer. She was an embodiment of courage, compassion and dedication,” FDNY Chief of EMS Operations Michael Fields said. “She joined the FDNY EMS Service with a burning passion to make a difference, to protect lives and serve the community, and throughout her career, she did just that. Captain Russo’s bravery and brilliance earned the respect and admiration of her colleagues and the community she served. She was a true leader, always leading by example.”
FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh presided over the plaque dedication ceremony and remembered the shock felt across the city on Sept. 29, 2022. Russo walked out of Station 49 and was heading around the corner when she ran into 36-year-old Peter Zisopoloulus who allegedly stabbed her more than a dozen times in a random attack, leaving her dead on the sidewalk.
“One year ago, we tragically lost Captain Russo in a horrible and heinous act that still makes no sense. Every day since, we have remembered a woman who was known as a ‘mother hen,’ a kind–hearted leader who you’d want on your team,” Kavanagh said. “It is fitting that we are here today, in Queens, in the community Captain Russo loved so much, and leaving two permanent reminders of her impact, and her memory.”
Immediately following the plaque dedication, the ranks moved outside Station 49 where 42nd Street between 20th Avenue and 19th Avenue was co-named “Captain Alison Russo Way” on a fire engine red sign.
“For anyone who asks who this street is named after, the stories will be plentiful,” Kavanagh said. “A hard-working public servant who responded to the World Trade Center Attacks. A highly skilled rescue paramedic. A fearless woman.”
Council Member Tiffany Cabán recalled that she was a middle school student in Queens when Russo “began her heroic career” in 1998.
“Day in and day out. Year after year, she would suit up, head to work and rush toward danger, and selflessly do whatever she could to save the lives of New Yorkers,” Cabán said. “She did it as an EMT, then as a paramedic and then as a lieutenant. She did it at EMS stations across the city. As was mentioned before, she did it on 9/11, aiding in the department’s rescue and recovery efforts. And I’m confident that she would have continued to serve with great honor for longer still, had she not made the supreme sacrifice last year.”
Cabán added that Russo deserved to finish her career with distinction, enjoying a relaxing retirement and passing away as an old woman surrounded by the people that she loved.
“It is horrible that she was taken from them, from the department, from our city, from our communities,” Cabán said. “She saved more than her share of lives. And it’s on us now to honor her memory, to take her example and do everything in our power to save lives.”
Following a brutal attack, Zisopoulus barricaded himself inside his third-floor apartment on 20th Avenue and, after a brief standoff, members of the NYPD’s hostage negotiating team and emergency service unit talked him into surrendering without further violence. He was indicted by a Queens grand jury and arraigned a week later in Queens Supreme Court, where he was charged with murder in the second degree. Zisopoulus pleaded not guilty and the Queens District Attorney’s office is awaiting the results of his most recent psychiatric evaluation. His next court date is scheduled for Oct. 26.
“Captain Alison Russo-Elling was a heroic FDNY EMS worker, dedicating her 25-year career to selflessly helping others,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said. “While my office works to obtain justice for her and her family, I thank public officials for ensuring that Alison’s legacy is honored with a street co-naming in her honor.”
Back at Station 49 on Wednesday, FDNY Chief of Department John Hodgens said the memorial plaque dedication and street co-naming represent Russo’s bravery and courage, and the FDNY’s promise never to forget.
“Captain Russo worked through some of the toughest times for this department and this city. She persevered through the days following 9/11 and worked through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hidgens said. “For 25 years she helped the people of this city on their good days and their bad. She was one of the senior members of this department, someone whom younger EMTs and paramedics turn to when they have a question or need advice. She was a hero and a role model. And that is how we will remember when people walk past this station and down Alison Russo Way.”.