Middle Village honors fallen 9/11 Hero EMT Hilda Vannata with street co-naming ceremony

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The street co-naming dedication ceremony of Hilda Vannata Way, located at the corner of 77th Place and Juniper Valley Road in Middle Village, where Andy Martinez, Vannata’s son, speaks of his mother’s influence on the world.
Photo by Anthony Medina

A street in Middle Village was renamed last week in honor of a 9/11 hero.

The street co-naming ceremony of Hilda Vannata Way, on 77th Place and Juniper Valley Road, paid tribute to the first responder who championed a legacy of compassion and commitment to helping those she encountered.

On what would have been Vannata’s 68th birthday, on Friday, Apr. 12, top FDNY Chiefs, members of the Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics, members of Fire Inspectors Union 2507, friends and family gathered to honor Vannata’s memory.

For 27 years, Vannata served as an emergency medical technician at FDNY Battalion Station House 14, located at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx. She notably answered the calls for help at Ground Zero during the terrorist attack on Sep. 11, 2001.

FDNY Chief of Department Jack Hodges, who attended the ceremony, spoke about Vannata’s heroism.

“She spent countless hours at the site as part of the rescue and recovery operation. She went there because New Yorkers needed her help. She was there to help the city begin to heal,” Hodges said.

Leaders of the FDNY, along with members of the Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics and Fire Inspectors Union 2507, as well as friends and family, came together to pay tribute to Hilda Vannata’s memory on Friday, Apr. 12. Photo by Anthony Medina

Unfortunately, like many fellow first responders who were exposed to the conditions at the World Trade Center on 9/11, Vannata had health-related complications. Vannata died on Sep. 20, 2023, after a hard-fought battle with 9/11-related pancreatic cancer.

“It’s a milestone that we did not want to see, but at this time, we are at 353 first responders that have succumbed to World Trade Center Illnesses,” Hodges added. “As you all know, that day, we lost 343 from the FDNY. So the number continues to rise.”

Andy Martinez, the Son of Vannata and an NYPD Sergeant for the Intelligence Bureau, spoke of his relationship with his mother and how their connection shaped his life.

“I truly miss my mom. I know she’s looking down and she’s super happy,” Martinez said, mentioning that Friday would have been the day he called his mother to see what they’d do for her birthday.

Martinez, choked up from fighting back heavy emotions, read parts of a poem he shared with his mother three years ago on her birthday. One line in the poem read, “Your endless love has made a difference in who I’ve become to be.” This line moved some in the crowd to tears.

Martinez says Vannata was looking down at the street naming with happiness.

FDNY Chief of Department, Jack Hodges, mentions the unfortunate passing of Hilda Vannata due to a battle of 9/11-related pancreatic cancer. Photo by Anthony Medina

John Vannata, Hilda’s husband and a retired NYPD sergeant, shared how his wife was a true New Yorker and helped maintain the city’s spirit throughout her life. He mentioned a Billy Joel song to say, “The lights did go out on Broadway that night for me.”

“New York will never be the same without her,” John added.

Council Member Robert Holden, FDNY First Deputy Commissioner Joseph Pfeifer and 13 members of FDNY top brass were also in attendance at the ceremony. Holden, who was vital to securing the street naming, recognized how a handful of blocks pay homage to fellow first responders, including Pfeifer’s brother.

“Her dedication and bravery set a standard of excellence in emergency medical services and made a profound impact on countless lives through her compassionate care,” Holden added.

Council Member Robert Holden speaks on Hilda Vannata’s legacy and the importance of commemorating those first responders who fell ill while saving lives in the attacks on 9/11. Photo by Anthony Medina

The Hilda Vannata Way sign on the corner of 77th Place and Juniper Valley Road is here to stay. Friends and family now have a dedicated space to honor Vannata’s memory right down the street from their homes.