9/11 Stories: Liz Carvajal Lopez

Liz Carvajal was a born and bred New York City girl, who had just moved home from living in Boston. Watching the tv coverage on 9/11 all day long with her family, by evening she knew she had to help her beloved city. Having a background in social work, Liz thought she could help the loved ones who had gathered at hospitals, looking for their missing loved ones. She grabbed her old hospital id, some gloves, and a mask and drove down an eerily empty Long Island Expressway into the city. Little did Liz know her decision to help on 9/11 would forever change her life, leading her to meet and marry the man she calls “the love of my life”. Still volunteering six months later, in March 2002, Carvajal met FDNY’er Alex Lopez. At first, they were just friends. Carvajal says for those working the recovery at Ground Zero, it was a city within a city, with people forming close bonds. 

May 28th, the day the recovery officially closed, everyone exchanged phone numbers vowing to check in with each other. All were on edge, not knowing how they’d react to going back to their “normal” lives, especially after an emergency medical technician hanged himself, unable to live with what he had seen and experienced there. After periodically calling Liz for about six months, a recently separated Alex asked Liz for a date. She was wary of dating a recently single man but Alex convinced her, saying they knew each other so well, and after just the first date, they knew that was it. 

They were blissfully married for ten years until Alex Lopez suffered a fatal heart attack in 2011. Although she cannot prove it, with heart attacks not officially recognized as a 9/11 illness, Liz is convinced the heart attack was the result of the jet fuel he was exposed to on 9/11. Alex Lopez was just 42 years old.