NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – It was supposed to be a summer job, but grew into a full-on career.
Now a talented member of the FDNY is making history.
The department has hired the first woman ever as EMS chief – Lillian Bonsignore.
It was hard to tell who was more excited – the crowd or Chief Bonsignore – when she made history.
“Today, I proudly become someone else’s possibility. Today, I am happy to say those possibilities are realities at the FDNY,” Bonsignore said.
With her wife by her side, the 50-year-old was sworn in Tuesday to her new role as Chief of EMS for the FDNY, making her not just the first woman to serve this position, but the first openly gay four star chief in the department’s 154-year history.
“Some day in our world, we will not have to talk about the fact that I am a woman, or about being openly gay when I received a promotion like this. But today is not that day,” Bonsignore said.
She is a 28-year veteran and was a first responder during 9/11. Most recently, she served as chief of EMS academy. With her predecessor retiring, Commissioner Daniel Nigro appointed her to the new role.
“There is that old expression, sometimes the best man for the job is a woman. And Lillian is the best person for this,” Nigro said.
The Bronx-born woman says she revealed her sexual preference when she was 30. Shortly after, she met her wife and started a family. She credits her success to their support.
“It makes me so proud to see what she is doing for women, and especially me, looking up to her. She is such a role model,” said her daughter Madeline Bonsignore.
“I am speechless. I always knew she could do this,” said her wife Kim Bonsignore.
But it was her former pediatrician who put the career choice in her head as a recommendation before she was supposed to go to medical school.
“Go and become an EMT, you will rock, you will only have to do it for a summer because then you’re going to go to medical school. But that didn’t exactly work out,” said Dr. Stacey Weber.
Good thing for all of us she instead fell in love with emergency medicine and the city she serves.
Alvin Suriel was also sworn in today as assistant chief of EMS. He’s the first Latin member appointed to the position.
The two new chiefs have served a combined 58 years for the city.