Kai Hernandez said she feels "very, very blessed'' to have found a happy marriage with Keith, especially given the extraordinary timing and circumstances of a courtship born of tragedy.
"I've been fortunate twice,'' she said. "It doesn't always happen even once.''
The two had met briefly in the late '90s but nothing romantic came of it, and in the spring of 2001 she married Glenn Thompson, a Cantor Fitzgerald bond trader.
Less than six months later, he was killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center.
A mutual friend told Hernandez what had happened and he called to offer condolences. The two soon were talking regularly. Eventually, he invited her to dinner.
"I looked around my empty apartment and couldn't think of a single reason not to,'' she said. "We'd been talking so much it didn't feel like some guy taking advantage of my vulnerable condition.
"He was such a wonderful friend to me. I was no picnic in the early weeks. I had nightmares every night and woke up screaming.''
Hernandez later suggested she and her then 10-year-old son from an early first marriage visit him in Florida to escape what she called the "smothering and overwhelming'' outpouring of support in New York.
"My husband who was killed was an all-around great, wonderful guy,'' Kai said. "I'm so grateful to Keith for having been such a good friend to me at a difficult time. He was perfect about it.''
In memory of Thompson and in honor of the search and rescue dogs she observed at Ground Zero, each year on Sept. 11 Kai sponsors a dog for a handler who can't afford its training and certification.