‘A pillar of our community’: Candlelight vigil commemorates beloved school crossing guard who died in the line of duty

Mayor Eric Adams embraces the daughter of Krystyna Naprawa — the school crossing guard who was struck and killed by a dump truck driver— at her vigil on Monday, Oct. 23.
Photo by Anthony Medina

Numerous flower bouquets and candles were placed at the street post at the corner of Woodhaven Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue where many remembered seeing school crossing guard Krystyna Naprawa on the job. The 63-year-old school crossing guard died on Friday, Oct. 20, when a dump truck driver who was making a right-hand turn from Woodhaven Boulevard and onto Atlantic Avenue struck Naprawa.

On Monday, Oct. 23, four days after her death, members of the Woodhaven and Ozone Park communities joined elected officials, friends and family members for a candlelight vigil in memory of Naprawa and her service to the community.

Flowers and lit candles now reside on the corner where school crossing guard Naprawa was struck and killed while in the line of duty. Photo by Anthony Medina

“My heart goes out to the family. Words can not really take away the pain, but our presence can do a lot to give the assurance that we celebrate a life that was committed, a life that was servant, a life that was well respected and a life that we’re going to miss,” said Mayor Eric Adams, who shared his condolences with Naprawa’s family.

The Cityline Ozone Park Civilian Patrol, alongside Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar, Council Member Joann Ariola and state Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., paid their respects at the organized vigil and expounded on the 13-year-long crossing guard’s legacy.

Members of Community Board 9 and 10 and from the office of U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez and The Woodhaven Residents Block Association also came out in support of the family and to highlight Naprawa’s legacy.

Mayor Eric Admas joined the candlelight vigil held in memory of Krystyna Naprawa and her dedication to the Woodhaven/Ozone Park community, alongside elected officials, friends, family, and fellow residents, just four days after her passing. Photo by Anthony Medina

“She was a beacon of safety, a symbol of community and a guardian for our young ones. This evening, we gather under this somber sky lit by the gentle candles to remember and honor this brave and selfless soul,” said Rajkumar. “We’re here at the very intersection, where day after day, Krystyna stood tall, ensuring the safety of our children. The tragedy that took her away from us, serves as a heart-wrenching reminder of the risks that so many of our unsung heroes face every day.”

Addabbo called for more action to protect school crossing guards across the city, acknowledging the difficulties of being a crossing guard. He said last year was the most dangerous year to be a crossing guard, with one in every 230 crossing guards being injured by a driver.

“We need to do what we can. We need to do what we need to do for our crossing guards. For Krystyna, we gather. We come together as a community,” said Addabbo. “For Krystyna, we acknowledge the work they do. For Krystyna, we appreciate the danger they’re in each and every day, these crossing guards. For Krystyna, we pray, pray for her soul and pray for her family; we pray for the safety of other crossing guards.”

Joann Ariola shares condolences with the family and a personal anecdote about her interactions with Naprawa. Photo by Anthony Medina

Ariola said she knew Naprawa personally, having lived in the same neighborhood of Lindenwood and recalls Naprawa visiting her district office on 101st Avenue in Ozone Park.

“She would come into our office to grab a cup of tea and to have a conversation when her shift was over. And she would bring such a beautiful smile and such a wonderful spirit and soul and she loved that we had honey all the time for the tea. And my staff would look forward to it,” said Ariola. “We will miss her. We will miss her the way her family misses her, the way her members of service that she served with will miss her, but not miss her more than those children.”

Members of the NYPD, including 102nd Precinct Commanding Officer Capt. Jeremy Kivlin, Chief of Patrol for Queens South Kevin Williams and representatives from the school crossing guard were also in attendance. NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban shared his condolences with the family and honored Naprawa in a statement online.

The vigil later moved across the street, where in the incident took place, as family members of Naprawa and those in attendance paid their respect. As part of the crowd were crossing guards both active and retired. Many of them spoke on the dangers that come with the job and their frustrations from pedestrians not adhering to their commands.

A group of school crossing guards at the vigil spoke on their interactions with parents who seemingly ignore their instructions and drivers who openly confront them. Naprawa was no stranger to those interactions, having been assaulted in one instance while on the same block, according to information shared by Cityline Ozone Park Civilian Patrol at the vigil.

Daniel Hill, director of communications for the Cityline Ozone Park Civilian Patrol, recalled seeing her often while riding his bike on the way to high school.

“She was more than just a crossing guard, she was a pillar of our community, a symbol of reliability and a friend to generations of students and parents,” Hill said.