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Remembering The Lives on 9/11

911 memorial

When I was in New York last month with my friend Jonna to celebrate my 50th birthday, one of the places I wanted to visit was the 9/11 Memorial.  I’ve seen so many photos and television reports of Ground Zero, but I wanted to experience the World Trade Center landmark for myself. Instead of taking a cab from the Theatre District, where we saw the musical Newsies, and driving to the Financial District, we decided to walk a “few” city blocks and take in the sights along the way.  As the sun began to set behind the tall buildings and the sky turned darker in the city that never sleeps, we were tempted to stop at one of the many outdoor cafés for a cappuccino and rest our tired feet, but we kept going. We wanted to reach the 9/11 Museum before it closed for the night.

Illuminated ahead of us was the brilliant “Freedom Tower,” which seemed closer than it actually was. So much for the pocket size map we bought at Grand Central Station. Despite our stomachs growling and our ankles swollen, we kept walking. When we got to Washington Square Park, I kicked off my flip-flops and dipped my sore feet in the fountain. That’s when I started to complain about a blister on my toe. Seriously? I’m whining about my tired feet when thousands of terrorized people, some of them covered in ashes and their own blood, ran for their lives down the smoke-filled streets of Manhattan as the World Trade Center Towers collapsed behind them.

We kept walking. We eventually passed a firehouse with the garage doors open. This was no ordinary fire station. It was  FDNY Ladder Company 10 Engine 10, on 124 Liberty Street, the one closest to the World Trade Center site.  Inside I noticed a charred fire coat, helmet and other equipment mounted to the wall in memory of the six firefighters who scarified their lives 13 years ago on September 11. It gave me the chills. I knew we were close to our destination.

So, we kept walking. I didn’t notice my feet throbbing anymore as we approached the reflecting pools at the 9/11 Memorial. Instead I was drawn to the nearly 3,000 names of the men, women, and children who were inscribed in bronze around the footprints of the Twin Towers.

9_11Memorial Pool Names Parapet Night. Rendering Squared Design Lab

I dragged my fingers across the letters and stopped when I reached the words “and her unborn child.”  There are 11 known pregnancies acknowledged in the 9/11 Memorial. There were probably more we’ll never know about. These mothers and their babies, who would have been 13 years old and in middle school, have left devastated families behind. Life will never be the same for them.

On the anniversary of 9/11, I wanted to know the story of one of these soon to be moms. And so I chose Monica Rodriguez Smith.

monica Rodriguez Smith

Monica and Ed.

Monica was a “vivacious, outgoing person who was full of energy she was the life of the party,” wrote her husband Ed in a tribute to his wife.

She was from Ecuador and came to the United States as a teenager with her parents and four brothers. Right after she graduated college in the early 1980s, she got a job working at the World Trade Center for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. In the 11 years she worked there, she never missed a day of work. In fact, the Port Authority gave her an award for achieving this very milestone shortly before she was killed.

She met her husband at the World Trade Center, and they married on August 31, 1990. They started to build their life together and were busy renovating their house in Seaford, the same house Ed grew up in.

Ed described his wife as “a natural mom to the people around her. Being the only daughter in a family of four boys, she was very comfortable at the Port Authority, an environment that was mostly men. After we got married, I worked and went to night school, and I wouldn’t get home until late. Monica would make sure there was something warm for dinner waiting for me. That’s just the kind of person she was.”

At age 35, she was seven months pregnant with their son when she was killed at the World Trade Center. February 26, 1993 was supposed be her last day of work before going on maternity leave. They planned to name their first child, Eddie.

The last photo of Monica Rodriguez Smith.

The last photo of Monica Rodriguez Smith.

Learn more stories of the lives lost on 9/11 right here.