Family means everything to Elexenia Moya. The Wellington resident recently enrolled at Palm Beach Atlantic University to study nursing alongside her daughter, Kristin.
“I decided to pick up where I left off and see how it goes,” said Moya, who began her nursing studies more than a decade ago at New York’s LaGuardia Community College.
|Palm Beach Atlantic University nursing student Elexenia Moya stands on the site of the World Trade Center memorial during the early phase of its construction.|
Moya, her husband and their two children moved to Palm Beach County last year from New York City. Moya came here to be closer to her parents, leaving behind a job that she loved. For the past five years, she oversaw documentation for the project managers and contractors building the new memorial at the World Trade Center site.
The work was particularly personal for Moya, whose office was on the 72nd floor of the north tower before the Sept. 11 attacks. Moya worked in the same office with her sister, Mercedes Gomez, where they organized and maintained contracts and files for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The sisters were inseparable. “They called us the Dolly Twins,” Moya recalled.
However, a few months before the attacks, Moya went on medical leave for a hand injury. She was due to come back Sept. 10, but she asked her doctor to delay her return until the following week. “I had a feeling that something wasn’t right,” she said.
The next morning, Gomez was at her desk when the first plane struck. Grabbing her purse, she convinced several coworkers to make the long downstairs trek out of the building to safety. Although Gomez and those employees survived, about 85 others from the floor did not.
Moya believes that had she been in the office that day, she probably would have been on the 45th floor getting breakfast around the time that the plane hit. “I would not have left my sister. I would have gone into that chaos looking for her, and she would have been looking for me,” she said.
“There was something larger than us there separating us. If we had been together, we would not have survived.”
|Elexenia Moya's sister, Mercedes Gomez, reads the names of the deceased at the World Trade Center site on Sept. 11, 2011. Both sisters worked together in the towers and later worked on the memorial being constructed at Ground Zero.|
In the aftermath of the attacks, the sisters eventually went back to work at temporary offices in New Jersey assisting the Port Authority in the recovery effort. Soon Moya found another job in 2007 as a document control manager for Bovis Lend Lease, a company involved in building the memorial, museum, pavilion and plaza stone.
In 2008, her sister also came to work for the company, and the sisters worked together on the project for a little more than a year, from July 2009 to November 2010.
During that time, Moya earned a two-year project management in construction diploma from Mechanics’ Institute, graduating at the top of her class.
Today, at PBA, Moya says she is fulfilling a lifelong desire to help those in need. At age 15, she worked as an assistant in a pediatrician’s office.
“It was like a natural calling,” she said. “I enjoyed every aspect of being there. Just being able to help them feel better and just being there when they needed someone to help them made it worthwhile.”