Saturday, September 11, 2010

Meeting a hero's widow

After the dust settled in my life on 9/11/01, there was a 'need' to do something. I just couldn't sit back and do nothing. But I wasn't trained in anything that would have been of use at Ground Zero. Plus, I needed to stay with our children. The Mayor's fire company could have been called to Ground Zero to help in the rescue efforts.

I don't remember exactly when I found out, but a few days after the towers fell co-workers told me that a former co-worker had lost his brother that day. His brother, William McGinn, was a Lieutenant in the FDNY. He, along with hundreds of others, responded to a job on that Tuesday morning only never to return home.

I can't even remember whose idea it was, but 2 of my friends in the office decided to make pins and sell them. Red, white & blue ribbons and American flags made out of beads & safety pins. We didn't have a set price. Basically, we were asking for donations. These donations would then be given to Lt. McGinn's widow & family.

I'm still in awe at the response we got from those pins. What cost pennies to make were being 'bought' for up to $20. Not because that's what we were asking for, but because that is what people wanted to give. Eventually, we asked our HR department if the company would be willing to match what we raised. They agreed to match up to $1000.

Several weeks later, Lt. McGinn's remains were found and a funeral was taking place on Staten Island. My friends, Irene & Priscilla, and I decided to attend the funeral and present the Lt. McGinn's widow the money we had collected - over $3000.

I will never ever forget that funeral for as long as I live. There were firemen EVERYWHERE from all over. Hundreds of people had come to pay their respects to this hero. There were pictures of his family, his wife & children. Firemen flanked the casket.

As we stood in line to give our condolences to the family, reality hit me. This family, this widow was living my worst nightmare. You see, The Mayor was a volunteer firefighter. I often feared that I would receive a knock at the door telling me that my husband didn't make it out of a fire. Here was this family living that fear.

Irene & Priscilla were in line ahead of me & gave the envelope to Lt. McGinn's widow. Explained that we had once worked with her brother-in-law and her husband's story touched our lives. Then I got to her.

My eyes welled up with tears. I was choking back sobs. All I could say to her was 'You are living my worst nightmare. My husband is a firefighter too and this is my fear.'. What she did next will live with me forever. She hugged me tight and whispered to me 'Go home & give your husband a hug & kiss from me. I never got to do that to mine before he died.' There she was, in her grief, comforting me in my fears.

It has been 9 years since the events of 9/11. Lives have gone on. Yet this family will always be in my thoughts & prayers.

Lt. William McGinn will always be one of my heroes.

Many blessings,

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