EAST HARLEM, Manhattan — Twenty years after the city of New York turned its back on Tracy Allen Lee, the FDNY emergency medical technician was honored Monday for the selfless act that ultimately took her life.
In November of 1989, Lee was barely two years into her career when she treated a patient with Aids while responding to a call.
She accidentally suffered a cut to her thumb which made contact with the blood of her patient.
It would be nearly five years later when she tested positive for HIV, becoming the first EMT worker in the city to contract the HIV virus while on the job.
In 1997, she succumbed to the disease dying at the age of 34. She spent her final years in a legal fight against the city which denied her request to classify her illness as a “line-of-duty” injury. The designation would have given her additional benefits including workers’ comp for at least two years of work.
“Twenty years is not a long time and I don’t care if its 100 years, we will not forget,” Chief of Department James E. Leonard said at Monday’s ceremony.
Twenty years to the day of her passing, the FDNY honored their fallen colleague with a memorial stone marker outside of FDNY EMT station 10 in East Harlem.
Her widower Victor Lee, as well as friends and former colleagues were on hand to celebrate the woman they knew as being unflappable.
“She didn’t let it affect her,” EMT and former colleague Emilio Martinez recalled to PIX11. “She continued living her life the way she did. I mean caring for the patients and until unfortunately she couldn’t do too much anymore.”
A legacy that will never be forgotten and her own words are still resonating today, from a letter to her colleagues left in her locker and read at her funeral.
FDNY commissioner Daniel Nigro delivered that message once again Monday.
“You make a difference every day, saving lives is so important,” he read. “I want each of you to be safe and be careful.”