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Yamel Merino

The call for help went out and emergency medical technician Yamel Merino, 24, responded, becoming one of the first rescue workers to enter the burning World Trade Center.

"She worked any time, anywhere," said Al Kim, director of MetroCare Ambulance Group. "She was the first wave. She was ready to go."

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Kim said Merino's energy helped her rise through the company's ranks of about 2,000 workers, advancing over five years from nonemergency transports to the 911 unit.

That dedication, and what Kim called a "magnetic personality," won Merino honors among her peers: She was named MetroCare's EMT of the year last year.

Yet her dedication also brought her to a stairwell of the World Trade Center on the morning of the attacks, where she was helping the injured and the exhausted when the tower collapsed.

Merino, who was buried Friday, is survived by her 8-year-old son, Kevin Villa; her mother, Anna Jager; her father, Fernando Merino; brothers Bryant and Leslie Jager; and sisters Gabriella Sierra and Vianca Jager.

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