Wedding ring of 9/11 victim and Clinton family friend found under 1.6 million tons of Ground Zero rubble to provide hope to daughter who almost died in hit and run a decade later
Sonia Mercedes Morales Puopolo boarded American Airlines Flight 11 on 9/11 and found herself sitting two seats away from terrorist Mohammed Atta, who would fly the aircraft straight into the north tower of the World Trade Center.
For her devastated family, including daughter Sonia ‘Tita’ Puopolo, the pain was agonizing, but just one year after the attacks, they received the unlikeliest message – one they would come to see as a miracle and one that would save Tita after she almost died in a car accident nearly a decade after September 11.
Workers at Ground Zero recovered Sonia’s left hand with the wedding ring her husband had given her 40-years ago still attached – unaffected by the 1.6 million tons of smoldering steel, rubble and rock that had laid on-top for all that time.
‘It was an overwhelming moment, an incredible moment,’ Tita, 39, said on the ring being returned.
Overjoyed at being reunited with this part of their mother’s life, the Puopolo family wondered what to make of this unexpected gift.
‘I meditated and thought, ‘What is the message here?’ she said. ‘For my father, it showed love lasts forever. And for me, I really do feel like it came back for a purpose, to share the message that miracles do happen.’
Inspired by the unlikely discovery of the wedding ring, Tita began to pen a book, ‘Sonia’a Ring: 11 Ways to Heal Your Heart.’
She describes the book as a way for others who have experienced their own ‘9/11’ moment of grief and loss to find ways of healing from their own personal tragedy.
Tita calls it a ‘how to cope’ tool kit devised as she healed after losing her mother.
Describing her mother as her best friend, Tita lost her best friend that day.
‘My mom was my greatest inspiration,’ she told NewsCenter 5‘s Mary Saladna. ‘My mom was a teacher.’
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Sonia Mercedes Morales Puopolo became a professional ballet dancer and eventually married to wealthy businessman and entrepreneur Dominic J. Puopolo Sr. of Dover, Nantucket.
She dedicated herself to the arts and became an internationally recognized leader in philanthropy and politics as well as a patron.
Through her work at the American Red Cross, AIDS Action Committee and the American Cancer Society, Sonia came to know and work with highest echelons of American life.
Indeed, Hilary Clinton gave the eulogy at her funeral in Boston on October 6th 2001.
Touring her book around the country, Tita wants readers to understand that their 9/11 moment doesn’t have to be as profoundly tragic as hers.
‘It does not have to be a tsunami, it can be a divorce,’ Tita said to CBS News. ‘It’s your 911 moment. It’s scary. It’s okay to cry. You must have faith. You must persevere and know that no matter what you are not alone.’
In 2010, Tita was exiting her car when she suffered a hit-and-run and was confined to a wheelchair – which she still needs to travel longer distances.
‘That was my other Sept. 11 moment and I didn’t have my mom there,’ she said.