Two Women Who Lost Loved Ones During the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks Come Together to Train for New York City Marathon: ‘We Formed a Friendship’

Caitlin Keating People Magazine

As two friends prepare for the race of their lives, they have much more than the finish line on their minds.

Josephine Smith and Theresa Giammona at the  memorial with Vinny's name. Photo Theresa Giammona

Josephine Smith and Theresa Giammona at the memorial with Vinny’s name. Photo Theresa Giammona

Josephine Smith and Theresa Giammona are training together for the New York City Marathon in November, but it’s not just their dedication to running that they have in common – they both lost a loved one in the September 11th attacks.

Josephine was 21 years old when her father, firefighter Kevin Smith, died at just 44 years old on September 11, 2001. And Theresa Giammona, a mother of four (who didn’t know Smith at the time), lost her husband Vincent, a fire captain, that morning, which also happened to be his 40th birthday.

“Vinny was training for the marathon, so that year, 13 guys from his firehouse ran for him,” Theresa, 45, tells People, “It was a very bittersweet moment.”

Training Together
Theresa, who says she is “definitely not a runner,” always wanted to run the marathon in her husband’s honor on her 40th birthday, but she had to postpone it because of a hectic schedule with her children.

The Giammona family. Photo courtesy Theresa Giammona

The Giammona family. Photo courtesy Theresa Giammona

Then, just a couple years ago, Theresa, who was married to Vinny for nine years, was introduced to Josephine through a mutual friend.

“We formed a friendship and decided to run the marathon,” she says. “Josephine is very athletic and keeps me going.”

But they don’t just keep each other going physically.

“We support each other mentally,” Josephine, 35, who is now a firefighter herself, tells People. “We understand what the other is going through. We talk about my dad, her husband, what’s going on in each other’s lives.”

They’re also both running to raise money for Answer the Call”, the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund. Founded by former New York Mets star, Rusty Staub, the non-profit organization has been dedicated to helping the families of fallen NYPD, FDNY and Port Authority Police Officers for more than 30 years.

“Not only have they given us financial support, they have also given us the emotional support we need,” says Theresa, whose children range in age from 18 to 22. “It’s really one of the positives from this horrific tragedy. You have something to look forward to. If you don’t count on the positives, you’re just going to crumble.”

Recently, Josephine asked Theresa to join her on a run to a special destination: the 9/11 Memorial.

“It was very emotional,” says Theresa. “Vinny and Kevin’s name were only 13 apart. It really was a sign.”

Kevin Smith at a wedding Photo courtesy Josephine Smith

Kevin Smith at a wedding Photo courtesy Josephine Smith

The Race
While their friendship continues to grow, so does their eagerness to complete the marathon on November 1.

“When I’m running, I visualize Vinny in front of me, pushing me to keep on going,” says Theresa, who currently runs around 20 miles a week.

Josephine knows the day will be an intense one, but having Theresa by her side helps her prepare for the challenge ahead.

“I am sure I will be happy, tired and exhausted all at the same time,” she says. “I always feel like my dad is there, and I am sure he will be with me the entire marathon.”

She adds, “Some things happen in life for a reason, and when I met Theresa, I just wanted to cry. I don’t tend to be emotional, but something about her made me want to cry in a good way. Ever since then, I feel like I have known her forever.”

Growing up, Josephine was extremely close to her father and always told him she would be a firefighter one day. When she experienced her first fire, she thought about him, and whenever she has good news to share or has a bad day, she still longs to tell him the details.

Fourteen years later, both women remember the beloved men in their lives who helped shape who they are today.

“When I think about that awful day, of course I wish I could change what happened,” says Theresa. “But if that meant taking away my children or not being able to meet Vinny, I would do it all over again.”

“I don’t know if Vinny and Kevin knew each other,” she adds. “But I know they’re together now.”

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