Nancy Collins of Lindenhurst had been working as an NYPD cop at the toxic Ground Zero pile for four months starting on Sept. 11, 2001. Then she found out she was pregnant.
As the years went by, thousands of fellow first responders developed ailments like cancer from particles unleashed by the destruction of the Twin Towers. Collins, now 52, worried how the exposure might hurt her unborn daughter.
But Wednesday, her family’s 9/11 story took an unusual turn.
Collins’ daughter, Kassidy Rieder, is the 17-year-old opera soprano who sang the national anthem Wednesday at the 9/11 Memorial in lower Manhattan, site of the nation’s main service commemorating the attacks 18 years ago.
And she is in good health.
Mourners, for whom the attacks are still raw, attended the event as did former New York City mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg as well as Mayor Bill de Blasio, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and the governor during 9/11, George Pataki.
“Here she is, healthy, thank God,” Collins said of Kassidy in an interview, “and has a voice like an angel.”
Wednesday morning, Kassidy stood on stage, in front of an unfurled American flag. Thousands of uniformed personnel saluted. Civilians placed their hands on their hearts. And the teenager belted out “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“I owe it to these people to give them the best rendition,” Kassidy told her mom, the two recalled afterward. The Lindenhurst High School senior said she kept her composure until she looked at her firefighter grandfather — and began to tear up.
Kassidy, who woke before dawn to drive to the city with her mom and dad, also attends the Long Island High School for the Arts as well as a Juilliard program on weekends. She just completed study at the Académie Internationale d’Eté in Nice, France. She’s performed Puccini. Two years ago Kassidy sang Ave Maria for Billy Joel, her mom said.
Kassidy found out about Wednesday’s opportunity to perform through the Long Island arts school after someone asked a teacher there if he knew a young singer who would want to audition, she said.
“This is just so full circle. I just feel so spiritual today, being in all of this,” Kassidy said. “My mom is a 9/11 first responder … and the coincidental part of that is that my due date was supposed to be September 11, 2002.”
She was born Sept. 4.
Both mother and daughter signed up with the 9/11 health registry to monitor for illnesses related to the destruction of the World Trade Center and surrounding buildings.
Kassidy’s grandfather, retired FDNY firefighter Michael Collins, 84, of Copiague, watched his granddaughter’s performance and felt a wave of emotion.
“I had tears in my eyes,” he said. “She’s got such a beautiful voice when she sings. It’s great and it knocks me out. I cry once in a while and that’s it, when I see her.”