This Week Marks Birthdays of Best Friends Judith Diaz-Sierra, Emy De La Peña

A white rose stands at the name of Judith Diaz-Sierra on the 9/11 Memorial.
Judith Diaz-Sierra and Emy De La Pena's names on the 9/11 Memorial. Photo by staff.

Behind each of the 2,983 names on the 9/11 Memorial are layers of “meaningful adjacencies,” reflecting affiliations and personal relationships. The names of best friends Judith Berquis Diaz-Sierra and Emy De La Peña remain parallel together in perpetuity at the 9/11 Memorial. 

Unlike any other memorial in the world, the arrangement of names was guided by more than 1,200 requests from victims' families to place individual names next to one another. Memorial designer Michael Arad explains that the design concept “allows us to place the names of those who died that day next to each other in a meaningful way, marking the names of family and friends together, as they had lived and died."

Berquis Diaz-Sierra and De La Peña met when they were in middle school and maintained a close bond throughout their lives.

They saw each other through life’s milestones—each standing as the Maid of Honor in the other’s wedding, taking vacations together as couples, and Berquis Diaz-Sierra being there for the baptism of De La Peña’s daughter. They even helped each other find work at the same company.

“They were inseparable. They went to school together, they worked together,” remembered Berquis Diaz-Sierra’s mother, Arecelia Diaz, in an interview with an oral historian. “Emy was her very best friend.”

On Sept. 11, the two women were last seen together trying to evacuate from their Fiduciary Trust office located on the 90th floor of the South Tower. Later, Berquis Diaz-Sierra’s family created a missing person poster with a photo of her on her wedding day with De La Peña.

Today, a white rose in Berquis Diaz-Sierra’s name honors what would have been her 48th birthday. Thursday will also mark what would have been De La Peña’s 48th birthday. 

By 9/11 Memorial Staff

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