MIAMI – (CBSMiami.com) - It began as an unwritten bond between a husband and wife: If anything happened to either one of them they would communicate through their wedding rings. For nearly 40 years, the Sonia Mercedes Morales and Dominic Puopolo enjoyed a long and loving marriage.
Then, the tragedy of 9/11 hurled their lives into a nightmare. Sonia Mercedes Morales Puopolo had planned to meet her youngest son, Mark Anthony in Los Angeles where they were planning to attend the Latin Grammy Awards.
In the early morning hours of September 11, 2001, she left the Miami airport to Boston. Her final words to her daughter Sonia "Tita" Puopolo before getting into the taxi: "Remember one thing about your mother. I am a survivor and always will be." The heavy, wooden door slammed and a chill filled the air, her daughter Tita remembered.
Puopolo boarded the American Airlines Flight 11 bound for Los Angeles in Boston and found herself sitting two seats away from Mohammed Atta, the terrorist who would fly the flight straight into the north tower of the World Trade Center.
At 58, Sonia Mercedes Morales Puopolo, a Puerto Rican born ballet dancer and arts patron, died. She left behind her loving husband and three adult children.
"On September 11, when my mom perished on flight 11, it was as if I died too. It was so painful. It physically hurts," said her daughter Sonia Puopolo who shares her mother's name. "It's a broken heart. We all understand what a broken heart is when you lose anyone, but especially for a mother, because mothers are the ones who give us life."
But a message emerged nearly a year after the attacks. That's when rescuers recovered Sonia's left hand with her wedding ring still attached and apparently unaffected by the 1.6 million tons of rubble, debris and smoldering steel. The family received the ring and at first expressed skepticism. Could it be a joke? A cruel prank? When the ring was authenticated, surviving family members described this find as a miracle.
And through the wreckage and miraculous find, her daughter found inspiration, hope and courage to share her story in a recently published book titled Sonia's Ring: 11 Ways To Heal Your Heart.
Tita describes her relationship with her mother as that of close friends who were "inseparable."
Robbed of her best friend, within a day of the dizzying tragedy, Sonia knew she had to keep her mother and her mother's love alive, through words.
The book is meant to offer help and hope no matter what anyone's 9/11 moment is- be it a death, injury, or any other loss.
"It does not have to be a tsuami, it can be a divorce," Tita said. " It's your 911 moment. It's scary. It's okay to cry. You must have faith. You must persevere and know that no matter what you are not alone."
For Tita, Sonia's ring is a symbol of human strength in the face of crisis. A ring that she will wear for the rest of her life – a gift she regards as a gift from beyond.
To learn more about Sonia's Ring, click here.
for more features.