Friends remember Mayra Valdes-Rodriguez for her beautiful teeth, her unmanageable hair and her outrageous laugh. "Her laugh would make you laugh," said Louis Mercado, a friend.
She loved salsa dancing, music and annual trips to Cancún, but she lived for her son, Elias. "Everything she did was for him," said Millie Valdez, her sister.
Whether it was something simple like going bowling or venturing off to bigger events like the Ice Capades at Madison Square Garden or vacationing at Disney World, she wanted Elias, 12, to have everything he wanted. When he asked her to try walking the tightrope during a visit to Disney World, she didn't disappoint.
"My sister loved life," Ms. Valdez said.
A 17-year employee of the Aon Corporation, Ms. Valdes-Rodriguez, 39, was a volunteer fire warden on the 103rd floor of the south tower. Co-workers told the family that on Sept. 11 they had seen her on the 78th floor hustling people toward a staircase.
The family holds on to the hope she may only be missing. "She was very level-headed," her sister said.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 5, 2001.