Remembering Supervisory Administrative Specialist Nicole Conti
Remarks prepared for delivery.
Nicole was truly an exceptional person—as a mom, as a member of our FBI family, and as a friend willing to help wherever and whenever she could. I was honored when Nicole’s family asked me to speak at this celebration of her life, and I consider it a great privilege to be here with all of you today. To Nicole’s family—especially her daughter Antonia—her friends, and the scores of people she touched, I’m deeply sorry for your loss.
Learning more about Nicole has been inspiring—her spirit, her selflessness, and the contributions she made not only to the FBI but to everyone she encountered. During her 22 years with the Bureau, Nicole never shied away from any job—no matter how difficult and no matter the task.
On September 11, 2001, Nicole was working in 26 Federal Plaza when the airliners hit the World Trade Center buildings. She was evacuating and had just walked outside when then-Supervisory Facilities Operations Manager Carole Frauenberg grabbed her and said, “You’ve got to help me.”
Nicole didn’t work for Carole, but she didn’t hesitate. She plunged straight into helping create a command post at the 26th Street Garage, setting up tables and supplies with Carole’s crew. She helped buy equipment and organize donations, distributing supplies as needed. She helped run the supply booths at 26th Street and made repeated runs to the World Trade Center site.
Members of the FBI team would go down into the rubble and come back up with their boots melted. So Carole’s crew, which quickly incorporated Nicole, would be there to give them new boots, socks, clothes, water, food—whatever they needed.
Nicole also worked closely with Chelsea Grady, a photographer in the New York office, to sort pictures of missing people and put them into folders so investigators knew who was who and who they were looking for.
None of that was her job. That wasn’t even her team. But it’s what the Bureau and the city of New York needed, so Nicole jumped right in and filled that role.
She made such an impression that Carole decided to officially keep Nicole on the team. In reflecting about Nicole, Carole said, “As a boss, you always knew whatever you assigned her would be done. She’d say, ‘Okay, I got it,’ and you knew you didn’t have to worry about that assignment again.”
Like so many others, Nicole tackled her work after the 9/11 attacks without a second thought about the possible consequences. In recent years, the FBI and our partners have begun to understand and witness the full extent of the sacrifices made by Nicole and all the selfless men and women who responded during that dark time. So as we gather here today, we remember Nicole and those we’ve lost to 9/11-related illnesses—and we draw inspiration from their example.
In the 20 years that followed 9/11, Nicole always stepped forward to work critical incidents—bombings, counterterrorism threats, Hurricane Sandy, the COVID pandemic. She was always there in those all-important moments—becoming the go-to person to set the schedule and make sure everyone had the support they needed to accomplish the mission.
Nicole also had a knack for property management and procurement. She literally established the program for travel and credit card in the New York office and made sure we ran that program by the book and with accountability.
And I’ve heard that her knack for procurement went well beyond her official duties. If your kid wanted the latest toy at Christmas, Nicole would track that toy down and get it. It’d be August, and she’d be helping colleagues get their hands on an Xbox or some other hard-to-find item for their kids in December. If someone needed something, either for their work at the Bureau or in their personal life, her refrain was, “Don’t worry, we’ll get it.” And it would happen.
She knew how to pull people together. She remembered everyone’s birthday, and she’d make sure the office always celebrated. And she often organized the “Property Unit Christmas Party,” which was—and still is—legendary in the New York office.
I’m told the staff in New York called her “The Tornado”—although to me, she sounds like “The Reverse Tornado.” She would blow through a chaotic office, and before anyone knew what had happened, everything was organized and accounted for.
I’ve also heard that Headquarters would frequently call Nicole, because sure enough, as Carole puts it, “Everything odd happened in New York.” And Nicole had the special talent of being able to translate how New York handled each oddity for the folks back at Headquarters.
I’m told she was a vintage Brooklyn girl, never afraid to bang heads when she thought people weren’t doing things the right way. But when push came to shove, she was the first one there for everyone. She was a leader. A friend. A mentor to so many people. And, first and foremost, a mom.
Over and over, her colleagues and friends remark that even when the world was in chaos, Antonia came first in Nicole’s heart and mind. And it’s clear that becoming a mom drove Nicole.
She was always the kind of person who wanted to help others, but when Antonia was a toddler, Nicole came to her brother-in-law Joey, who was an FBI administrative specialist, and said she needed a job. To which Joey replied, “Nicole, you have a job.”
And Nicole explained, no, she needed a job that was dependable and had benefits that would help her take care of her little girl. Joey brought her an FBI application and helped her navigate the hiring process. It then took us about a year to bring her onboard. So, that means all of those people Nicole helped, all of those lives she touched, all of those investigations she helped make successful—all came about because becoming a mom motivated her to rethink her place in the world.
Antonia, I want to thank you for sharing your mom with all of us. She truly was special and precious to everyone here this afternoon.