“Tragedy wasn’t the only thing born on 9/11. Hope was born, too.” — David Paine, co-founder 9/11day.org 

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Cindy McGinty, a 9/11 widow who refused to curl up in a ball when she was suddenly forced to raise two young boys alone, issues a call to action as we pause today to remember the fallen.

“Think about what you can do to keep the hope alive that was born on 9/11,” she says.

Moved by her neighbors’ kindness fourteen years ago and inspired by the spontaneous selfless acts across the country, McGinty challenges us to carry that spirit forward. And not just during the spotlight of this anniversary.

After losing her husband Mike, McGinty found her footing doing service work for others. Once painfully shy and a dutiful housewife, the Bristol, Conn. native discovered her voice advocating for military families and others.

Michael McGinty had been a nuclear power specialist on a submarine tender in the Navy. She helped start the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund to assist the families of active duty service members.

Cindy also joined a national nonprofit, 9/11day.org– or MyGoodDeed–or that facilitates volunteer service projects. Its founders were the driving force behind establishing the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance. Some 50 million people are expected to volunteer in a form of their own choice today.

McGinty also established a scholarship in Mike’s memory in Foxboro, Mass., when they lived in 2001. She and a core group of friends continue to hold a Family Fun Day on the Foxboro town common—which will be held again Saturday–disbursing some $90,000 in grants to high school students who are active in community service.

Energetic and fun loving, Mike McGinty was dedicated to his family, a dad who left work firmly behind when he came home. Sliding his briefcase across the floor, Mike would roar, “Where’s my dinner?”, sending their sons into screams of laughter. In 2001 he worked for Marsh Inc., the insurance brokerage firm in New York.

McGinty was starting a business meeting on the 99th floor of the North Tower when American Airlines Flight 11 struck just below him.

After getting the boys on the school bus that morning, Cindy was at their church, using a staple gun to help recover some chairs. News of the first jet crash came over the radio, followed by phone calls from her sister.

“In that instant the world stopped for me,” she said. “Everything I knew was no longer, my life, my love was gone.”

Yet something else happened in the next moment, something bigger.

That surging spirit continues to resonates across the country.

“It was as if the world stopped, took a collective breath and began breathing again,” she recalled earlier this week, returning to Foxboro to speak before a small group of Jaycees in a community hall. “Hope was born out of ashes and rubble. I know it sounds impossible. Thousand of people died. Buildings crumbled and planes crashed and the world just stopped. Consider for a moment what really happened that day.”

Setting out to help others, Cindy McGinty ultimately found her own way to heal.

“Yes, I had suffered a trauma,” she told the Jaycees, “but in the process of recovery I grew as a person. I embraced this growth and wanted to use it to help someone else. I discovered the secret: I thought I was helping people and what really happened was that I found my inner peace. I received far more than I gave.”

That surging spirit continues to resonates across the country.

Hillary O’Neill celebrates her fourteenth birthday today, one of 13,238 children born on 9/11. She already realizes the significance of her connection to it.

As she told People magazine recently, in honor of the fallen, O’Neill planned to sell lemonade and donate the money raised to Al’s Angels , which helps children struck by severe illnesses or natural disasters.

“When I realized that even though my birthday is such a bad day, and such an awful and tragic day for so many,” Hillary says, “it’s important to make the best out of it and make it something good.”
Click here to view a video interview with Hillary O’Neill.

To David Paine, one of the co-founders of 9/11day.org, “ Tragedy wasn’t the only thing born on 9/11. Hope was born, too.”

Of course, this remains a bittersweet day for Cindy McGinty. Her husband adored reading with his sons, playing board games, and sometimes returned from a business trip with a fresh CD from Strawberries for them. Born an Air Force brat in a dysfunctional, frequently moving family, he was determined to do it right.

In her former life, Cindy appeared doe-eyed and had a nondescript job doing systems documentation for an insurance company. Now in her mid 50s, she is still largely a no-frills, plainspoken person. Both her sons are young adults making their way through college, and at time she grapples with letting them figure out their mistakes.

These days, McGinty knows exactly what she wants, refusing to linger long over decisions or a minor miscue. Over dinner with some friends after her talk, she was animated, sharing stories of one son’s mishaps learning to drive her Volvo.

“If you look at people who are active in the community and serve you will see people who are energized, engaged, compassionate, and happy,” she said earlier. “I believe it is because they are a part of something bigger than themselves.”


The McGinty family’s ordeal and how Cindy found her voice following the terrorist attacks is chronicled in my forthcoming book,
The Ten-Year Quilt,  expected to be published early in 2016.

Photo: Associated Press/The Star-Ledger, John Munson, via WBCO-AM1540

Photo: Associated Press/The Star-Ledger, John Munson, via WBCO-AM1540