Moira Smith: NYPD cop recounts wife's heroic 9/11 sacrifice, missing final phonecall
Moira Smith was helping a woman having an asthma attack on the third floor of the South Tower when it collapsed.
A former NYPD cop recounted how he watched the World Trade Centre collapse on 9/11 as he drove to the scene, only to later realize his wife was inside.
Moira Smith was the only policewoman who lost her life on that fateful day. She left for work early that morning after kissing husband Jim and daughter Patricia, who was two at the time, goodbye. After the first plane hit one of the towers, Smith responded to the scene as quickly as possible. She was reportedly helping a woman having an asthma attack on the third floor of the South Tower when it collapsed.
Jim, who was also a cop at the time, was on his way to New York when he saw the tower fall. “It was right before the midtown tunnel that I saw the first building go down," the retired police officer, now 60, told The Sun. “I was in the car driving over the bridge and I saw it. I made it to the precinct, where Moira and I worked, I asked where she was and was told: ‘It’s ok – she’s accounted for.' But by that point, she was already under the building.”
Moira, 38, was martyred after she ran into danger while others were frantically trying to escape it. Her husband, however, said she was not supposed to be there. “On September 11, Moira was supposed to be on election duty, but she switched and was working a labor dispute demonstration," Jim recalled. “She went in at 5 am - she kissed the baby, kissed me, and left. She was working at the demonstration when she saw the first plane hit. Moira called the job in, grabbed a couple of witnesses, and took them back to the precinct to be interviewed. I believe she was the first person to call it in that day.”
As soon as she was alerted of the tragic news, Moira picked a handful of her colleagues and headed downtown towards the blazing towers. She tried to call Jim at home, but he tragically missed that call. “I was with our daughter Patricia and we were watching a videotape," he said. “I was downstairs when the phone rang - apparently it was Moira trying to get in touch with me. By the time I got there, she had hung up.”
Moira and the other officers rushed toward the South Tower, which was the second to be struck by the planes and the first to collapse. “Moira was directing people, getting them out and moving them through the lobby. If there were people who were more seriously injured, she’d take them out," Jim said. "Someone came down and said there was a woman on the third floor having an asthma attack and needed help. Moira went up to give her aid – and that’s when the building collapsed.”
Jim's sister had already alerted him of the terror attack by this time. He then dropped off his daughter with his sister and immediately left for the city to help in any way he could. “It was a madhouse," the former cop said. "All the cops and the firemen were driving on the sidewalks to try and get down there.”
Jim worked for hours at the grim scene on 9/11, believing Moira was safe somewhere. His sister, however, kept calling him to ask if he had heard from his wife, especially since Moira hadn't called in to check on little Patricia.
“I was bringing supplies down to the officers at Ground Zero. Then finally, at about 3 am, a group of officers asked me if I knew where Moira was," Jim remembered. “It was like: ‘You f**** have been telling me all day you know where she is – and now you don’t know where she is?’ We were checking hospitals. We began digging. That went on for quite a while. Friends of mine drove down to help me look. There was nobody in charge, no equipment or anything – we were digging by hand. It was all pieces of rock and dust.”
It wasn't long before Jim realized his beloved wife was gone.
Jim retired from the NYPD after 9/11 to look after his daughter full time. He still lives in New York and has since remarried to wife Christine, with whom he has sons James, 13, and Christopher, 10. However, he told The Sun how the anti-cop sentiment fueled by Black Lives Matter protests did not sit well with him.
“The thing that disgusts me is that people said: ‘Never forget, never forget, never forget’. With the way, they treat police officers around this country now? They forgot," Jim remarked. “When someone told Moira there was a woman on the third floor having an asthma attack, she didn’t say: ‘Hold on, what color is she?’ She went up there and lost her life trying to save that person. That’s what police do every day," he explained.
Moira now has a playground in Madison Square Park named after her. “That was part of where she patrolled," Jim explained. "As my daughter says, it’s a place where kids can be safe and Moira can look out after them."