NYPD Lt. Marci Simms saw the best in people and never became jaded, though her career confronted her with some of the world's worst horrors, including futilely searching for survivors at Ground Zero.
"She always looked at the good. Nobody was bad, everybody was good," said her sister, Susan Fosco, 63, of Oceanside. "She inspired me every step of my life."
Simms died Thursday at her home in Commack more than a year after being diagnosed with lung cancer. She was 51.
Retired NYPD Sgt. Glenn Amico, a close friend, hopes Simms becomes the face of the fight to keep the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act from expiring in 2016.
Amico, 53, noted the emotional response on social media to Simms' death, and said a news photograph of her in uniform, beaming, speaks volumes. "I think her smile will do it."
Simms "always took care of everybody, and she always did the right thing," he said.
She spent 4 1/2 months at Ground Zero helping search the rubble after the terror attacks.
"Her throat was burning; her eyes were burning," said Fosco, who vows to continue Simms' fight to renew the Zadroga Act.
Born in Brooklyn, Simms grew up in the Kensington neighborhood. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, working during the day and taking night classes.
At the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Simms was the liaison with the police department. Even then, "as a civilian, she was cleaning up the city," said Amico, who was her NYPD counterpart.
That job -- and the many police officers who became her friends -- led her to the police academy, where her family said she graduated at the top of her class in 1998.
"She always said, 'What a man can do, I can do better,' " said her sister. Her last NYPD post was in Flushing, Queens.
In addition to surrounding herself with family and friends, Simms loved gardening at the family's upstate bungalow in Hopewell Junction.
Though a first marriage was not a success, in her second, to Keith Simms, she found her soul mate, Fosco said.
Four years ago, the couple moved to Commack. Her mother, with whom she was exceptionally close, moved in with them.
After superstorm Sandy struck some of her family's homes, she took in her brother Kenny and his wife, and Fosco and her husband.
"She was one of God's lights," said Kenny Rickman of Commack.
Survivors also include her mother, Jacqueline Rickman; sister Linda Clinton, of Boca Raton, Florida; and brothers Mitchel Rickman of Brooklyn, and Jeff Rickman of Oceanside. The funeral will be held Sunday at 11 a.m. at Gutterman's Funeral Home in Woodbury. Burial will follow at Wellwood Cemetery in Pinelawn.