I watched the Twin Towers collapse on 9/11 not realising my beautiful wife was inside – I missed her final phone call
A FORMER NYPD cop has described watching the World Trade Centre collapse on 9/11 as he drove to the scene – not realising his wife was inside.
Brave Moira Smith – the only policewoman to die in the attacks – had gone into work early that morning after kissing husband Jim and two-year-old daughter Patricia goodbye.
She sprang into action after the first plane hit – and was helping a woman having an asthma attack on the third floor of the South Tower when the building collapsed.
Jim, also a cop, was frantically driving into New York when he saw the tower fall.
Speaking to The Sun 20 years on from 9/11, the retired officer, now 60, said: “It was right before the midtown tunnel that I saw the first building go down.
“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, died a hero in the collapse of the South Tower – running into danger just as others were streaming the other way.
A picture taken on 9/11 shows her leading bleeding broker Edward Nicholls away from the carnage so he can be treated for a head wound.
But it was a twist of fate that saw her witness the attack.
Jim said: “On September 11, Moira was supposed to be on election duty, but she switched and was working a labour dispute demonstration.
“She went in at 5am – 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.”
'I missed her call'
After going to the station, Moira grabbed a few cops and headed downtown towards the blazing World Trade Centre.
Tragically, she tried to call Jim at home – but he missed it.
He said: “I was with our daughter Patricia and we were watching a video tape.
“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 left their police hats in their van and ran into the World Trade Centre, making their way towards the South Tower.
It was the second to be struck by a giant jetliner and the first to collapse.
The cops, including Moira, immediately began helping people.
Jim said: “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.
“I’ve met Ed Nicholls, the person in the picture that she’s seen helping to the ambulance. He was struck by debris and had a serious shoulder injury.
“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.”
She was always the life of the party. People didn’t care if I showed up as long as Moira did."
'I was told she was safe'
By this time, Jim had been called by his sister to alert him to the terror attack.
He dropped off Patricia with his sister and immediately began making his way into the city too, in an effort to help.
The cop said: “It was a madhouse. All the cops and the firemen were driving on the sidewalks to try and get down there.”
Believing Moira was safe, Jim worked for hours on 9/11, but his sister kept calling to ask him if he had heard from his wife.
She hadn’t called to check on their daughter Patricia.
Jim said: “I was bringing supplies down to the officers at Ground Zero. Then finally, at about 3am, a group of officers asked me if I knew where Moira was.
“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.”
Eventually he realised she was gone.
'Life of the party'
He added: “It could have been a day or two days later – but you just knew that no-one was coming out of there.”
Describing his wife of three years, Jim said: “She was always the life of the party.
“People didn’t care if I showed up as long as Moira did – and I’m talking about my family! She was always smiling and always a happy person.”
Jim, who still lives in New York, retired from the NYPD after 9/11 to look after Patricia full-time.
He has now re-married to wife Christine and they have sons James, 13, and Christopher, ten.
'She died trying to save someone – that's what police do'
But anti-cop sentiment, in the wake of the Black Lives Matters protests, has left him feeling angry 20 years on from 9/11.
He said: “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.
“When someone told Moira there was a woman on the third floor having an asthma attack, she didn’t say: ‘Hold on, what colour is she?’
“She went up there and lost her life trying to save that person. That’s what police do every day.”
Madison Square Park, in Manhattan, now has a playground that’s named after Moira.
We have to relive it every single year – and they get no punishment. People should be outraged that this is happening.”
Jim added: “That was part of where she patrolled. As my daughter says: ‘It’s a place where kids can be safe and Moira can look out after them’.”
Patricia and Jim flew to Guantanamo Bay in 2017 to watch pre-trial hearings of the five al-Qaeda plotters charged with planning the 9/11 attacks.
The long-delayed trial of the five – including alleged mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad – has still not gone ahead, delaying justice for the families of victims.
Patricia, now 22, has volunteered to testify.
She told The Sun: “It was pretty tough when I went there – you don’t expect them to be treated as well as they are.
“It was difficult to watch. Being there and listening to them speak was something that you are not always prepared for.
“I want them to remain in Guantanamo Bay at the bare minimum.
“I think it's incredibly unfair that I had to grow up my entire life without a mother and so many people in the same boat and their fathers, their brothers and their sisters.
“We have to relive it every single year – and they get no punishment. People should be outraged that this is happening.”
Patricia now wears her mum’s necklace – with the name ‘Moira’ – round her neck every day.
She added: “I see it and it’s a little reminder of her.”
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