In April 1996, Jeffrey R. Smith moved from Florida into my apartment above the Old Print Shop on Lexington Avenue in New York City. I had lived alone for almost 10 years at that point. I cannot say I was living the Carrie Bradshaw life, but I was an independent woman. I loved my job at ABC News, I traveled around the world for work and for pleasure, and I was a doctoral candidate in English literature at NYU. It was a good life, made immeasurably better when Jeff moved in.
Within six months, while on a dive trip to Little Cayman, he proposed. Six months later we were married. We dove in the Coral Sea on our honeymoon, then returned to our jobs, me to ABC, him to his office at the investment-banking firm Sandler O’Neill, on the 104th floor of Two World Trade. Our diving trips were put on hold when our daughter Margaret was born in 1998, followed by Charlotte in 2000. We dreamed of one day diving in the Galápagos with our daughters, but we never got a chance. Jeff was killed on September 11, 2001.
On the Sunday before Jeff was killed, we raced together in my parents’ Comet, a 16-foot sailboat, on a lake in northern New Jersey where I grew up. Afterward, while sailing back to the dock, we talked about what would happen if one of us died. It’s uncanny that we had this conversation. I don’t know how it came up, and of course I have never forgotten it. Jeff said he would want me to remarry. “Life is for the living,” he said. I hedged; I didn’t want to talk about this. I remember how he teased me, saying, “Hey! Now you’re supposed to say that you want me to remarry, too.” I finally told him I did. “But not to anyone younger than me, or blonde.” He agreed. Two days later, he was killed.