Nancy Muniz, who would have been 48 this month, was a secretary for Landmark LTD, a construction company on the 82nd floor of One World Trade Center.
She injected warmth and sincerity into a somber workplace, a co-worker recalled, rallying the office to buy a wedding gift for a young groom and standing up for the office bully, a woman who once wrongly accused Muniz of stealing from her purse.
Despite their confrontation, Muniz showed her true colors when the boss uncouthly berated that woman for bungling a job, said John Miller, the coworker.
She stepped up to the boss and said: "'I don't think so - you don't talk to her like that. You don't talk to anyone like that," Miller recalled.
He later asked her why she had stuck up for the woman, considering the bad blood between them.
"She said 'John, she's a hardworking single mother like myself,'" Miller said.
That grace made Muniz his hero, he said.
It was a sentiment echoed by Councilman Dennis Gallagher (D-Middle Village) during the street renaming at Linden Street and Cypress Avenue, just outside the building where Muniz had lived for five years while raising her handicapped son, Brian.
During the ceremony, a crowd of dozens waved tiny American flags while Muniz's family set free two doves and a bundle of helium balloons, representing the Puerto Rican woman's ascent into heaven. A small chorus serenaded the audience with renditions of "God Bless America" and Frank Sinatra's "Nancy (With the Laughing Face)"
A hero is not just someone who rushes into burning buildings to save others, Gallagher said, but everyday people trying to carve out a patch of happiness while navigating the daily grind.
"She was going to work to provide a better life for herself, her family, her loved ones," Gallagher said. "And her life was cut short by cowardly terrorist attacks."
Muniz was among the 87 people from the Community Board 5 region killed on Sept. 11, Gallagher said, and one of a half dozen to have a street renaming in the nearly three years since the attacks.
Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at email@example.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2004 Community News Group
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