The Chief
February 22, 2002

Colleagues Mourn P.O. Moira Smith

City Mourns a Cop and Mother

By William Van Auken

New York's Finest stood at attention eight-deep along six blocks of Fifth Ave. Feb. 14 to pay homage to Police Officer Moira Ann Smith, who sacrificed her life helping people escape from the smoke and chaos of the World Trade Center attacks.

Muffled drums and a lone piper sounding the mournful strains of "Amazing Grace" led a black limousine carrying Moira's husband James, also a Police Officer, and the couple's 2-year-old daughter Patricia Mary to the entrance of St. Patrick's Cathedral. Shielded against the cold by a blue wool coat and holding her father's white-gloved hand, the little girl looked up in wonder at the tall spires before climbing the Cathedral's steps

'Life of the Party'

Fellow officers, relatives and friends packed St. Patrick's for the memorial service in which the 14-year veteran was remembered as a courageous cop, a loving mother and wife, and someone who was the "life of the party," both in her Manhattan stationhouse and in the Bay Ridge, Brooklyn neighborhood where she grew up.

The service took place on St. Valentine's Day, which would have been Officer Smith's 39th birthday. A large red heart-shaped wreath stood behind the altar alongside a green one from the NYPD Emerald Society. There was no casket, as her body, like that of 13 other of the 23 officers lost on Sept. 11, has yet to be found.

She was the only female member of the NYPD to die that day, and only the second female city cop ever killed in the line of duty (Transit Officer Irma Lozada was the other one). The body of Capt. Kathy Mazza of the Port Authority Police, who also lost her life on Sept. 11, was found recently at Ground Zero.

A niece, Allison Reddy, and two childhood friends described Moira Smith as "ready for anything," filled with "teenage mischief" and "the funniest person I knew." One friend recalled an early act of heroism, a rescue of another swimmer at summer camp when Moira was 12, and told of playing police officer with her, "staking out" their Bay Ridge neighbors.

Another described her as a "fifth grade women's rights activist" who petitioned to allow altar girls to serve at mass so they could get out of class early like the boys.

"Her life was not defined by her final act," said Ms. Reddy. "It was just an exclamation point on the life of my hero."

Officer Smith began her police career in the Transit Police Department in 1988. In 1991, she was awarded a distinguished duty medal for going into the shattered Union Square subway station and rescuing passengers from a train derailment that claimed five lives and left over 100 injured.

A year after the merger with the NYPD, she transferred to the 13th Precinct in Gramercy Park. Her husband James, who is currently assigned to the Police Academy, joined the Manhattan South command at the same time.

Helped Other Cops

Police Officer Lissa Navarra remembered her as the "first one to step up for a cop in trouble," leading the precinct in the sale of 10-13 raffle tickets. After her baby came, she said, Moira plastered the inside of her locker with photographs and shared stories about Patricia Mary with other women working in the precinct.

Officer Navarra described her feelings of rage when she saw news photographs of Moira at the World Trade Center taken in the minutes before her death.

"I wanted to yell at the picture and to tell her to get out of there and save herself," she said. "But I know that even if she could hear me, nothing would have prevented her from trying to save one more person."

'Close to Our Hearts'

Female officers at the 13th Precinct have taken to posting "notes and sayings" on the outside of Moira Smith's locker "to keep her close to our hearts," she said.

Officer James Smith recounted that the service also marked the 10th anniversary of his first date with the woman he would marry. "We went to dinner and a New York Rangers game," he recalled. "We both fell in love; I fell in love with her, and Moira fell in love with Rangers forward Tie Domi."

He described their life together as one crowded with friends, good times and travel. Moira, he said, "ran with the bulls in Spain, rode a camel in Morocco and played roulette in Monte Carol." The best times of all, he added, were the ones spent with their daughter Patricia Mary. "To see the two of them together was pure joy," he said.

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said that Officer Smith had "made real and significant differences in peoples lives" in the course of her police career. He cited a "significant burglary" arrest while working at the 13th Precinct as well as her work as a first responder both at the Union Square derailment and in a 1994 bomb explosion on a subway train at Fulton Street.

"If we could identify all those people she helped and comforted, there would be a lot of people here to thank her," said the Commissioner.

On Sept. 11, Mr. Kelly said, Officer Smith had seen the attack from miles away at the 13th Precinct station house on East 21st St. "She could have done 100 important tasks there and no one would have questioned her courage and dedication," he added. "But she wanted to be where she could make the most difference." She gathered together a group of officers, including Police Officer Robert Fazio, who also died on that day, and headed to the World Trade Center.

'Transformed a Horror'

Her heroism, the Commissioner said, was memorialized in a letter from a survivor who described a female officer diving through the smoke and leading people out with her flashlight just before the South Tower fell.

What she and other officers did on Sept. 11, Mr. Kelly said, "changed that day from a day of total defeat and devastation to one of rescue and triumph," in which only a fraction of the 20,000 who were initially feared lost died at the World Trade Center. Their heroism, he added, had "renewed the bond between the people of New York City and its Police Department.

Governor Pataki brought condolences from the state, while Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch read aloud a letter from President Bush praising Officer Smith as "a true American hero and a role model for her daughter and people all over the world."

Wearing a bright red tie for Valentine's Day, Mayor Bloomberg began by pointing out that like Officer Smith, it was also his birthday. He also revealed that he had "used some of the few powers I have as Mayor to commandeer" a NY Waterway ferry that had made its maiden voyage the day before after being christened the Moira Smith. The Mayor said that as he rode the craft uptown, he read the inscription honoring Officer Smith and the 22 other NYPD members lost on Sept. 11.

'She's Still With Us'

"Moira is really still with us," the Mayor said to the fallen policewoman's husband James. "Your daughter is Moira, and I only hope that she brings as much joy to your life as my daughters bring to me."

Standing at the rear of the cathedral was Police Officer Susan Techky, wearing the distinctive uniform of the Emergency Service Unit. She said that like her male counterparts, she has spent most of her time working in the rubble of Ground Zero. Like Officer Smith, she responded to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. "It's a great honor and tribute to her," she said of the service, choking back tears.

Outside, the solemn ranks of Police Officers snapped to attention and delivered a white-gloved salute as buglers played taps and two NYPD helicopters flew over 5th Avenue. A little girl walked down the steps holding her policeman father's hand and disappeared into the waiting limousine.