March 21, 2002
By Rocco Parascandola and Sean Gardiner STAFF WRITERS
The remains of Moira Smith, the only female member of the NYPD to die Sept. 11, and those of four other law enforcement officers were pulled from the muck of Ground Zero early yesterday.
The 5 a.m. discovery, in the pouring rain, set in motion the all-too familiar procedure that is at once heartbreaking and cathartic: All work stopped as Smith's remains were removed by the department's Honor Guard and then driven in a cortege past the 13th Precinct, where she was last assigned.
"It's a very solemn and dignified event," said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who was called to Ground Zero. "I can see it, how it does bring closure to the family. I guess it's hard to describe it but there is this sense of relief, sense of finality."
Kelly offered particular praise for Smith.
"She was a pretty remarkable person," he said. "She brought witnesses to the stationhouse, which could have been a case for her to stay to process information, but she ... responded to the World Trade Center with other people."
Kelly said workers also recovered the remains of two court officers and two Port Authority police officers.
Smith's body - identified by her shield and name tag - was found near where Tower Two once stood, Kelly said, where she was last seen rescuing people.
In a heartbreaking scene nearly three months after the Twin Towers were toppled, the 23 NYPD officers lost Sept. 11, were honored with the department's Medal of Honor.
Smith's award was accepted by her husband, Officer James Smith, and their daughter, Patricia, 2, whose appearance on stage shook even hardened cops. James Smith, out of town yesterday, was notified of yesterday's discovery by an NYPD inspector.
David Bookstaver, spokesman for the Office of Court Administration, said the remains of Court Officer Tom Jurgens, 26, were found with his badge and gun, and the remains of Court Officer Mitchel Wallace, 34, were found with a piece of his gun.
Jurgens raced into Tower Two after his superiors called for help. Wallace, 34, was arriving for work when he saw a plane hit the Trade Center and ran to help. The remains of the other court officer to lose his life Sept. 11, Capt. Harry Thompson, have not been found.
John McAusland, lawyer for the union representing PA officers, said DNA tests will be conducted to help officially identify the remains of the two others found yesterday.
Also yesterday, the Medical Examiner's office said the remains of two civilians were positively identified: Heinrich Ackermann, 38, and John Spataro, 32, an assistant vice president for Marsh USA Inc.
The rain "makes an extraordinary situation deplorable," said Solange Schwalbe, who monitors safety at Ground Zero. "It's muddy, cold, wet, miserable."