As terrified New Yorkers fled the falling twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001, Sarah Scott jumped on a bicycle and pedaled across the bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan to get to work.
Awful as it was, Scott, who was then the general counsel to the New York City medical examiner, knew what her job was. For the next eight months, she helped specialists sift through dust and debris, searching for victim remains.
That tenacity and care characterized Scott, who spent 13 years with the New York medical examiner’s office before moving to Austin in 2003 and eventually becoming chief administrator of the Travis County medical examiner’s office. She died suddenly Tuesday, at age 66, after collapsing in her office.
Scott spent the morning before she died touring the new medical examiner’s building, which she had been instrumental in developing, said older sister Rachel Scott.
“Sarah had been shepherding that project from the beginning, and I know it was a really rewarding experience to see it come about,” Rachel Scott said.
Sarah Scott played a pivotal role in managing the medical examiner’s office. She was involved in the hiring and firing of employees, disciplinary measures, budgets and served as a spokeswoman to the media.
She had an English literature degree from Kansas University and a law degree from the University of Houston. She has a daughter in New York and two sisters in Austin.
Her sister said her cause of death was still under investigation, but there is a long family history of unexpected death from cardiomyopathy. Sarah Scott also had a severe form of the inflammatory disease sarcoidosis that affected her breathing, determined to be caused by her 9/11 exposure.
In 2015, she urged members of Congress to stop holding up funding to renew medical care for 9/11 relief workers.
“None of us thought anything about any potential danger to us,” she wrote in a 2015 letter to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. “We genuinely thought we were doing more than just our jobs, that we were serving the nation.”
She worked in private practice when she first moved to Austin, then eventually landed at the county.
“The opportunity came up where they needed a new administrative officer for the medical examiner’s office and when Sarah interviewed, they just about hired her on the spot,” Rachel Scott said. “There wasn’t anybody who could match her qualifications.”
Rachel Scott said her sister was a compassionate administrator who always tried to go the extra mile to improve the office and to make sure everyone who worked there had what they needed to be successful.
“They kind of broke the mold after they made Sarah,” she said. “You just don’t get many like her.”