FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 25, 2008
MAYOR BLOOMBERG SPEAKS AT FUNERAL SERVICE FOR TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT AGENT DONNETTE SANZ AND SEAN MICHAEL SANZ
The following is the text of Mayor Bloomberg's remarks as delivered.
"Commissioner Kelly, members of the NYPD, friends and family of Donnette and Sean Michael Sanz, and especially those of you who have traveled all the way from Jamaica to be with us in our common sadness, good morning. The city really does open its arms to you during this difficult period.
"New York is a city of opportunity, a place where, for centuries, people from around the world have come to pursue the Great American Dream. And Donnette was one of those dreamers. And although she was taken from us far too soon, she was living out that dream. New York gave Donnette an opportunity, and she gave us so much more.
"First and foremost, Donnette gave the gift of life, to her husband, Rafael, to whom she donated a kidney and to her son, Sean Michael, who was born into this world against all odds. And his stay on earth was tragically brief, but it was long enough to fill our hearts with love. Donnette also gave us the gift of laughter.
"Unfortunately I never got a chance to meet Donnette, but I'm told she had the kind of deep, joyful laugh that people remembered long after she left the room. I was looking at the pictures on the television screen and trying to imagine what she was like, what it would have been like if I had had a conversation with her; telling a few jokes and laughing about the problems that we have, some of which we're solving and some of which we have to solve.
"When her fellow traffic agents came back from a stressful day on the job, they could always count on Donnette to lighten their mood with a joke or a funny comment, or even one of her infamous looks. To all New Yorkers, those who knew her, and those who never met her, Donnette gave to this city the gift of service.
"In a big and bustling city, maintaining order and safety on our streets is absolutely critical to our quality of life. And I have enormous respect and admiration for the men and women who go out every day in all kinds of weather and sacrifice their own comfort and safety to protect the rest of us.
"Donnette performed an essential service for her fellow New Yorkers and she did it with grace and dignity. In all the time that Donnette spent in summons enforcement, her supervisor never got one single complaint about her.
"Anyone who ever witnessed the reaction of a New Yorker who finds a ticket on his car can appreciate just how hard it is for our traffic agents to keep their cool but Donnette never had any problems in staying calm.
"Her co-workers described her as a real lady, first and always. She never held on to grudges or anger, and she tried to help those around her to see the positives in life. 'Get over all your negativity,' she'd tell them, 'I'm not into it.'
"Now, I feel exactly the same way about the city; we aren't perfect but we are getting better and we aren't perfect but we are better than anyplace else.
"I don't know what gave Donnette her incredible sense of self; maybe it was part of her Jamaican heritage. Donnette grew up on an island known for its beauty and serenity and it seems she carried a piece of that with her even as she walked the streets of New York City.
"Or maybe it was Donnette's loving family that grounded her: her mother and her beloved late father; her three brothers and three sisters, and her dozens of nieces and nephews. From what I've learned, nothing, not even an ocean, could keep this family apart. Even after Donnette moved to the U.S., she made a point of talking to her family in Jamaica every single day.
"I know exactly what that's like. I always make sure I call my mother every single day. I actually saw her this morning. She is down in New York. My mother is 99 years old and she asked what I was doing today and I told her. And she said, 'You know, it's so sad but sometimes the best leave us the first.' But it is what it is. I can't explain why God does the things that he does.
"Donnette's family meant everything to her and so did her husband Rafael. Theirs was a love story that could rival anything you see in the movies. I understand it started, is this true? One day when Donnette was out shopping she dropped a magazine and you rushed over from afar and picked it up and saw your future right there?
"I met Rafael twice, I guess, now and talked to you three times. The first time was in the hospital. I was at a funeral for a worker for New York City, a Sanitation worker, who had died and then got the tragic call about your wife and went over to St. Barnabas and saw you there. And we talked on the phone and then this morning.
"Hopefully I'll see you again; and there will be tears, but eventually the tears do turn to good memories and to laughter. Never seems that way when you're at this point but that's what Donnette would have wanted and that's what you have to do. Yours is a beautiful story and that's partly what made you such a happy couple.
"I know that this couple was looking forward to having a family of their own, and nothing made Donnette happier than the knowledge that she was pregnant with a son. Donnette couldn't wait to see Sean Michael and she began talking to him while he was still in the womb and told him about the person she hoped he'd become: a good man who respected his elders.
"In many ways, Donnette will still get her wish. Sean Michael will not live out the life she imagined, but he will be forever by her side, watching over his elders. His life was short and in a few short days on earth, he brought our city together and reminded us about the power of human kindness.
"Sean Michael tapped into the heroism of dozens of normal, ordinary New Yorkers who, within seconds of a tragic accident, came together to perform an extraordinary rescue. It's not the first time I've seen that kind of heroism in New York, and it certainly won't be the last. But every time I catch a glimpse of it, I know that I am seeing the true spirit of our city, and it does fill me with hope.
"Rafael, Evadne, I've always believed that there is no greater heartbreak in life than burying a child. And Rafael, I cannot fathom the pain that you must feel losing a child and your true love.
"Please know that all New Yorkers today have a heavy heart. I stopped by a diner just down the street to have a cup of coffee this morning and everybody said, 'Well what are you doing here?' And then when I told them every single one of them said, 'Oh, it's so sad.' You don't know them, they don't know you, but they do, in this case, really feel your pain.
"May God bless the memory of Sean Michael and Donnette Sanz, may God bless the many lives that they have touched, and may God continue to bless our New York City traffic agents, and all of the members of the NYPD."
Stu Loeser (212) 788-2958