February 15, 2002

Officer Died As She Lived: Helping Others

By Melanie Lefkowitz STAFF WRITER

     Click on picture to see      more of funeral.
Moira Smith started saving lives when she was 12 years old.

Waiting on line to jump into a swimming pool with her friends, she watched the girl in front of her go under, said Kathleen Jacobs, Smith's friend. Once she determined the girl was drowning, Smith didn't hesitate.

"As the lifeguard leisurely took the time to take off her cover-up, Moira jumped in, grabbed the girl, swam across to the side of the pool and got her out," Jacobs said. "Moira died as she lived — thinking of others before herself."

Other than the now-familiar strains of drumbeats and bagpipes, Fifth Avenue outside St. Patrick's Cathedral yesterday was as quiet as it ever gets. A line of police, eight officers deep and six blocks long, stood at attention as a solemn honor guard presented an American flag to Smith's husband, Officer James Smith.

Inside the packed cathedral, a unique portrait emerged of Smith, one of the 23 NYPD officers to die at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. She loved to have fun with her girlhood buddies, to take trips with friends in her and her husband's Winnebago, to be a mother, to be a cop.

"Life is short," she would tell her friends and relatives. "Let's have fun."

Smith was memorialized yesterday at a service attended by thousands, including a teary-eyed Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. George Pataki, on what would have been her 39th birthday. She loved Valentine's Day, her friends and family said, because it was not only her birthday but a day when she could celebrate the love that she, her husband and their 2-year-old daughter, Patricia Mary, shared.

"She was a beautiful, intelligent and caring woman. She believed every day of her life was a gift from the Lord, and she treated it as such," her husband said. "I thank God for the time we had together."

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Smith, who worked in the 13th Precinct when she died, was miles away from the World Trade Center when the first plane struck. She sprung into action, however, gathering up witnesses and bringing them over to her station house.

There, Kelly said, she gathered up colleagues — including Officer Robert Fazio, who also died when the towers collapsed — to go to the World Trade Center to save as many lives as possible as quickly as they could.

"She wanted to be where she was needed the most. She wanted to be where she could make the most difference," Kelly said. "She is a part of New York's history forever, and a part of its greatness."