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9/11 victims share heartache with Moussaoui jury

From Phil Hirschkorn
CNN

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ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- Jim Smith recalled for the jury meeting his wife, Moira, a fellow police officer and Brooklynite, at a midtown bar frequented by New York's finest. They hit it off, despite differences that may have hopelessly embittered some New Yorkers.

"She took my Yankee hat off and tossed it across the room. She was a Mets fan," Smith told the jury at the death penalty trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, 37, who has admitted to conspiring with al Qaeda to hijack and crash planes into U.S. landmarks.

Prosecutors are hoping the personal anecdotes of people who lost loved ones during the September 11 attacks will sway jurors, and Smith's was one of five heart-wrenching victim-impact tales they heard Thursday.

The Smiths married in 1998 and had a daughter, Patricia, prompting Moira Smith, 38, to transfer from her narcotics street squad assignment to something tamer, community policing, Smith said.

But when a passenger jet ripped into the World Trade Center's north tower on September 11, 2001, Moira Smith and her unit were quickly on the scene helping people evacuate. (Read how ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani recalled the "worst thing I have ever seen")

A photograph of Moira Smith escorting a bloodied businessman who had been working in the south tower provided a picture of her last moments. Moira Smith was killed minutes later when the south tower collapsed as she tried to save a woman suffering from an asthma attack on the third floor.

Holding back tears, Smith tried to explain how the loss affects Patricia, now 6, who was shown in a 2002 picture wearing a red dress and her mother's medal of honor.

"The loss to Patricia, I can't begin to explain," he said. "I tell her, her mom was a hero, and she died trying to save others."

Fallen firefighter

Fireman Dan Suhr was a fan of the three Fs.

"All about fun, all about family and all about the Fire Department," fellow firefighter and friend Tony Sanseviro told the jury.

Suhr and his wife, Nancy, were childhood sweethearts with a 2-year-old daughter, Briana, and they owned a pizzeria, appropriately dubbed NAD (Nancy and Dan). They were "the king and queen of the prom," Sanseviro said.

On September 11, 2001, Suhr and his squad were deployed to the World Trade Center, and Suhr insisted that he not drive because the driver must stay with the fire engine.

"He knew what he was doing. He knew he was going into the building," Sanseviro said.

But Suhr didn't get far. As he approached the flaming towers, a man leapt from atop one of the buildings and came crashing down on him, knocking him unconscious. Bleeding profusely, Suhr later died at a nearby hospital.

Sanseviro, who said he suffers from survivor's guilt, has retired from the Fire Department. "You kind of lose your will to live," he said.

Despite his anguish, he has taken the loss far better than Nancy Suhr -- it was only last year that she stopped wearing black every day, he said.

Adventurous flight attendant

When Mike and Bobbie Low first learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center, they were terrified for their daughter, Sara, an American Airlines flight attendant.

"We knew she was flying that day," Mike Low said, but when he and Bobbie called the airline employee hot line, they were told she wasn't on Flight 11, the Boeing 767 that slammed into the north tower.

"We experienced elation," Mike Low said.

But that elation quickly turned to devastation, as the couple learned that Sara Low was one of the nine flight attendants on board the plane. It turned out that the person with whom they had spoken earlier was looking at the passenger manifest rather than the one for employees.

Mike Low said his family is now frozen in time. He tosses and turns at night, replaying the horrific images of the terrorist attacks, and Bobbie Low rarely leaves the house, where Sara Low's bedroom has been turned into a shrine for her ashes and airline uniform.

"It was a home of happiness and dreams, but now it's her sanctuary," Mike Low said. "Nine-eleven thoughts are just pervasive. They're always there."

Happy dentist

Arranged marriages are rarely fodder for true love, but Chandra Kalahasthi said his sister Prasanna had found bliss in her marriage to Pendyala "Vamsi" Vamsikrishna.

A 30-year-old software engineer, Vamsikrishna was supposed to return to Los Angeles, California, from a business trip in Boston, Massachusetts, on September 9, but his work kept him in Boston an extra day.

On the morning of September 11, Vamsikrishna phoned his wife and left her a message: He would be home in time for lunch.

But his jet, American Airlines Flight 11, would never return to the West Coast.

Kalahasthi flew from India to the United States to comfort his sister, who had sunk into a deep depression, her brother said. She constantly played the tape of her husband's last message.

A month after the attacks, Kalahasthi left Los Angeles on a business trip, and his sister hanged herself from an exercise machine in her house.

He fought back his anguish Thursday as he read to the jury his sister's suicide note.

"I am sorry I am hurting you," she wrote. "I loved Vamsi too much."

An American dreamer

Tu Ho Nguyen and her husband, Khang, left Vietnam for the United States in 1981. After becoming American citizens, the two were married on July 4, 1993.

"The birth of America," Nguyen said. "Coming to the United States was our great gift."

Nguyen recalled for the jury how her husband, an electrical engineer at the Pentagon, ran out of their Fairfax, Virginia, home on September 11, 2001, to hear their son, An, say "bye bye, daddy" from the departing school bus.

It would be the last time An saw his dad.

Khang Nguyen, 41, died when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon, and An has had a difficult time with the loss, said Tu Ho Nguyen, who is rearing the boy by herself.

"He told me he wants to be an astronaut, so he can go to space and look for his daddy."

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