New York Daily News

December 5, 2001

Little Girl as Special As Her NYPD Mom

Two-year-old Patricia Smith crossed the stage at Carnegie Hall wearing a red velvet dress and shiny black party shoes, her tiny right hand in her father's white-gloved left.

DalyHer father is Police Officer James Smith, and he was wearing his dress uniform as he led her to where Mayor Giuliani and Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik stood waiting.

Patricia was there to accept the Medal of Honor for her mother, Police Officer Moira Smith, who perished at the World Trade Center.

Smith
Moira Smith       

Moira Smith had been one of the first to respond, and she had last been seen in Tower 2. A trader with Eurobrokers later described her as "intense, but calm," her blue eyes steady, her voice ever even.

"Don't look, keep moving," she said again and again.

People kept moving when they otherwise would have frozen in terror. She was credited with saving literally hundreds of lives.

The youngest Smith now showed she had inherited more of her mother than her Irish eyes and nose. Another child might have cried or fled or clutched her father's leg, but Patricia is her mother's daughter.

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Patricia Smith, 2, leaves stage wearing Medal of Honor awarded posthumously yesterday to her mother, Police Officer Moira Smith.

As the whole packed hall resounded with a standing ovation, Patricia strode with her father toward center stage. Three or four steps into it her left index finger went to her lips, but she kept walking and her eyes stayed steady under her light brown bangs.

She stopped when her father stopped, and Giuliani bent over to place the emerald green ribbon around her neck. She looked impossibly small as the eight-pointed gold star hung just above her knees.

Her father saluted, and the mayor joined the applause. Patricia's eyes went to the audience, her index finger still at her mouth. She continued with her father to the far end of the stage.

As they went down the steps to rejoin the audience, her father swept her up in his big left arm. He carried her up the side aisle as the next family stepped up to receive a posthumous Medal of Honor.

Patricia looked at the stage and then lay her head on her father's shoulder. He crossed the back of the hall and went down the far aisle to the row of seats marked "Smith Family."

Grace & Courage

The posthumous awards continued, with children and siblings and parents showing that grace and courage are family traits. The Langone and Vigiano families also had each lost a son who was a firefighter.

When the last medal was bestowed, the lights dimmed and Lee Greenwood sang, "God Bless the U.S.A." The faces of the 23 officers who had perished at the World Trade Center flashed on a screen, and suddenly there was Patricia's mother.

Moira Smith gazed from the screen with the flags of her country and her city in the background, her eyes bright with dedication and promise, her mouth forever at the verge of a smile.

"God Bless Them. God Bless the NYPD," the closing message read.

Then the lights came up, and all the great musicians who have played Carnegie Hall could not match the sound of those cops singing "God Bless America" after they had lost so many of their own.

The ceremony done, Patricia rose in her father's arms, wearing his uniform hat, but looking so much like the face that had flashed on the screen.

Patricia put her father's hat back on his head. Somebody asked how old she was, and she held up three fingers.

"This many," she said.

"Not yet," her father said. "Not until your next birthday."

She curled one of the upraised fingers. The remainders would forever mark her age when she lost her mother.

"I this many," she said.

"Yes, you're 2," her father said.

Composed, Tough

More than one person remarked on how composed Patricia had been on the stage.

"She's tough," the father said.

His heartbreak in his face, he carried Patricia toward the exit.

"I want a ba-ba," Patricia said.

One of the family produced a bottle of milk. Patricia held it in her left hand and took a few pulls as her father carried her out to the street.

The day was nearly as warm as if it were still September, but a woman held up a black coat with a furry collar. Patricia transferred the bottle from one hand to the other as she stuck her arms in the sleeves. Her free hand played with her father's gleaming hat brim.

Her father put the hat back on her head. She returned it to his head and toyed gently with his left ear. She at least still had a dad who seemed to be as good as a kid could have.

In her father's big left arm, Patricia set off crosstown. She gazed back over his shoulder at the crowd of cops still at the entrance. A number of them wore emerald green ribbons just like she had worn, their medals for acts of uncommon valor prior to Sept. 11. Cops were heroes long before it became fashionable to call them that.

Patricia's father said something, and she tipped her head toward him. They continued into the city where hundreds are alive because of the mother who lives on in the eyes that peered out from under those light brown bangs.