9/11: Patricia Smith, Little Girl in Red Dress, Remembers Police Officer Mother Who Died

Patricia Smith accepted her mom's Medal of Honor; the picture touched the world.

ByABC News
September 8, 2011, 9:43 PM

Sept. 9, 2011 — -- The photograph of the little girl in a red velvet dress with her late mother's NYPD Medal of Honor hanging around her neck and dangling past her knees tugged at heartstrings across the world.

Patricia Smith was 2 years old then, when she walked across the stage at Carnegie Hall to accept the honor for her mother, Moira Smith, a New York City police officer who was killed in the Sept. 11 terror attacks that felled the twin towers in lower Manhattan.

Smith, 38, was the department's only female police officer to be killed on 9/11. After helping people escape the burning buildings, she went back again and died when the south tower collapsed.

In an interview with "Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts, the girl, now 12, and her father, James Smith, talked about that day and what life has been like since.

Of that December 2001 day at Carnegie Hall, Patricia has very little memory. But she has a deep and lasting pride.

"I feel proud that I did that, and was able to represent her," she said.

An athlete who loves softball, horseback riding and field hockey, Patricia also loves algebra. In fact, it's the seventh-grader's favorite subject.

Her father doesn't take credit for her math aptitude.

"Luckily, she takes after her mother," he said, laughing.

As the anniversary of the attacks draws near, their thoughts turn more and more to their loss.

Patricia says she doesn't have any memories of her mother.

"I wish I did," she told Roberts. "But I kind of try and live off the stories that they tell me."

"My favorite one is probably the one that my Dad told me about when she was about 12, my age. She jumped in a pool and saved a little girl. And I always found that interesting about her. Like, even before 9/11 she was a hero, to somebody," the girl said.

The focus on 9/11, the public remembrances, the personal memories from family and friends who tell him "we haven't forgotten," all provide catharsis, Smith said.

"It's nice to know there people who still care, still remember," he said. "And, you know, Moira touched our lives in different way. And always in a positive way."

In addition to her aptitude for algebra, Patricia also gets her mother's sense of adventure, her love of nature and animals, her smile, her freckles, her tendency to roll her eyes and her love of life.

"It's a mini Moira, at this point," Smith said.

For her part, Patricia says she would have loved to have her mother watch some of her big moments in sports. That would have made her happy.

But her presence during the normal moments – such as a family dinner – "probably would be my biggest moment," Patricia said.

"I really just wish she was, like, back with our family," she said. "I feel like it would just … make everything normal again."

Smith thinks Patricia's mother would have been proud to see her daughter grow up, win championships, excel at academics, move up from one grade to the next, and have her first day at school and her first graduation.

"You know, I think they both missed out on it. You know? Obviously, Moira missed out on it. And Patricia missed out on having Moira there."

The hardest moments for him have been when he keenly felt Moira's absence.

"Those moments when I sit there and think, you know, 'if only Moira were here now, for Patricia.' You know, that's when it bothers me the most," he said. "You know, when she needs … when she should have her mother there and she's not. Those are the special moments that make … my job harder."

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