Twice during her police career, Moira Smith plunged herself into disaster scenes, repeatedly pulling out the maimed and wounded only to turn around and selflessly return to the danger.
She emerged from the first disaster — the Aug. 27, 1991, subway crash in Union Square in which five were killed and more than 130 hurt — with the Police Department’s Distinguished Duty Medal for saving dozens of lives and earning the respect of her fellow officers.
The second time — the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center — she never made it out.
For her efforts on Sept. 11, Smith, the only female NYPD officer to die in the attacks, was posthumously awarded the department’s highest accolade, the Medal of Honor.
Tomorrow, on St. Valentine’s Day and what would have been her 39th birthday, she will be memorialized at St. Patrick’s Cathedral as a hero.
“She was … oh, God …” Charles Barbuti, a lieutenant in the 13th Precinct and Smith’s friend, paused before continuing. “I would have to describe Moira as active, dedicated, courageous. We had indications that on a number of occasions she had come out of the World Trade Center, carrying people out, then gone back in. She had the opportunity to leave and she chose not to.”
Barbuti said they have at least two pictures from newspaper photographers showing Smith rescuing people trapped inside Tower Two. Like 13 of the 23 city police officers killed at the World Trade Center, Smith’s body hasn’t been found.
At 11 a.m. today on a pier a few blocks from Ground Zero, a new East River high-speed ferry will be christened “The Moira Smith.” From 5 to 10 p.m. today, a wake will be held for Smith at the Bay Ridge Manor at 476 76th St. Then tomorrow at 2 p.m. will be the memorial Mass at St. Patrick’s.
Det. Julia Koniosis, president of the Policewomen’s Endowment Association, said that at a dinner-dance Feb. 27 they will name Smith the organization’s Woman of the Year. It’s an honor Glamour and Ms. magazines have already bestowed upon her.
”She was bringing people out, she was doing her job and she was doing it heroically,” Koniosis said.
Smith was Brooklyn-born and bred. Advancing from PS 170 to Our Lady of Angels to St. Savior and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, she met the friends who would remain her lifetime confidants.
After attending Niagara College upstate, she joined the New York Police Department in 1988. She met her husband, Jimmy Smith, also a Transit officer, introducing herself in her usual outgoing way by snatching his Yankees cap off his head and flinging it across the squad room.
“She was a lot of fun,” Barbuti said. vShe was vivacious, she was fun-loving, she was a joy to be around. That may sound like a cliche, speaking well of people who have passed, but in her case, it was true. She made everyone around her feel comfortable. Everyone liked her. No one had a harsh word to say about her.”
The couple married in May 1998, and on July 20, 1999, Moira Smith’s dream came true, her friends said, when her daughter, Patricia Mary, was born.
“After that, Moira seemed happier, more fulfilled,” Barbuti said. “Having Patricia was the happiest day of her life. She was devoted to Patricia.”
In a heartbreaking episode this past December, the tiny little girl, dressed in a red velvet dress, accompanied her father onto the stage of Carnegie Hall to accept the Medal of Honor for a mother she would never see again.
“That was a tough day,” said Barbuti, who accompanied Jimmy Smith. “She’s a doll, that kid; she’s an angel. It’s going to be hard, but Jimmy’s a tough guy. So far, he’s keeping everything together. He’s got to be tough for her.”
– New York Newsday Victim Database 2/13/2002
Police Officer Moira A. Smith, 38, was appointed to the Transit Police Department on July 11, 1988, and was assigned to Transit Districts 2, 4 and 30 before being transfered to the 13 Precinct in March 1996. Prior to becoming a police officer, she was employed in the travel industry. While working in Transit District 4, she met her husband, PO James Smith, who is currently assigned to the Police Academy. Besides being an avid sports fan, PO Smith and her husband loved to travel. In 1995, while vacationing in Spain, they ran with the bulls. PO Smith is survived by her husband; daughter Patricia and sister Mary.
– SPRING 3100, Commemorative Issue
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Dedicated Memorial Sites:
New York City Police Memorial Wall
Long Island 9/11 Memorial
Long Island Metropolitan Lacrosse Foundation 9/11/01 Memorial
9/11 Memorial at St. Joseph’s Chapel
Queen Elizabeth II September 11 Memorial Garden
Conseleya 9/11 Memorial
Crescent Beach Park – Flagpole/Memorial for 9/11 Victims
Dewitt 9/11 Memorial
East Newark 9/11 Memorial
Fair Haven 9/11 Memorial