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Oral History

Cindy McGinty Oral History, Founder & President, McGinty Scholarship Fund; Board Member, Mass Military Heroes Fund

Copyright 2016 the Miller Center Foundation and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

Heininger

This is an interview with Cindy McGinty, in Bloomfield, Connecticut, on April 22, 2010. Why don’t we start at the beginning, and why don’t you tell me about Mike [McGinty].

McGinty

Mike was my husband. He and I lived in Foxboro, Massachusetts. He worked for Marsh & McLennan. We had been married a little over ten years and had two sons. He worked for a company that was based out of New York and the group that he worked for was based out of New York. His office was in Boston, and they had wanted us to think about moving to New York, which we did not want to do. We had a nice house in Foxboro. We had two children, Daniel and David. Daniel was eight and David was seven.

He had started this schedule of working in New York on Mondays and Tuesdays, and then working out of the Boston office the other three days, and either traveling or working out of the Boston office. He worked in the power and utility group and was an ex-Navy guy, and a graduate of the Naval Academy. His specialty was nuclear power, and the power and utility group was having a meeting on September 11, in the World Trade Center, and there were people from all different offices that were at that meeting on September 11. He was in the North Tower that was hit by the American Airlines plane, and died in the World Trade Center.

Heininger

How did you hear about it?

McGinty

I was at church that day. We were working on a project to recover some chairs, and I was there with a bunch of people from the church. A friend of mine got a call on her cell phone, and she said that she heard a plane had hit. Actually, she said to me, Where’s Mike today? And I said, He’s in New York, at the Trade Center. Her face just fell and she said, I just heard a plane hit the Trade Center. She’s the kind of person that overreacts a little bit, and I thought, Oh, you know, it’s probably a little Cessna and she’s making a big deal out of this, and I didn’t really think anything of it. I think somebody went and got a TV at the church, and just after that, we heard another plane had hit, and I thought, OK, this is probably something bigger than that, and I called my sister in Connecticut. We were going back and forth, and she was saying—I don’t like to bother people—so we were thinking, should she come up, should she not come up, and I was thinking, I don’t like to bother anyone, and we don’t know anything yet. Then we turned on the TV.

Heininger

So at that point, you hadn’t even turned on the TV, and so you hadn’t seen it.

McGinty

I hadn’t seen it. We turned on the TV just as the North Tower collapsed. I guess at the same time we turned on the TV and saw the North Tower collapse, somebody at her job said the North Tower collapsed. She said, We’re coming, and she left work. I turned to somebody at church and said, Somebody has to go get my kids, because they were at school and it’s a K-12 school that they were at, and I didn’t want—I was afraid, because there were older kids there, that they would somehow find out, and they knew where their Dad was. So the children’s minister at church went and got the kids, because I wanted them to find out from me.

Heininger

They must have been startled though, to be picked up from school.

McGinty

This woman who picked them up, Janet [Sides], was very good at what she did. She worked with children, and they trusted Janet. So she just said, Something happened and we’re going to go home. I don’t even remember—I drove myself home, I insisted on it, and I don’t remember getting home. All of that is a real fog, but somehow—this is the kind of church I belong to. Somehow, I got home, and by the time I got home, another woman from the church was there and had food for 50 people. I remember being home, and there were a lot of people there, and MSNBC [Microsoft/National Broadcasting Company] was on and I was ticked off because it’s not the channel I watch. You know, you think of these crazy things. It was going in the background and I felt like I had lost control of my house already.

Heininger

Yes, that makes sense.

McGinty

It was like an omen of what was to come, like our life was out of control already. I knew the boys were on their way, and I knew if they walked in and saw all these people here and the TV going they would know it was bad, and there was plenty of time for them to know it was bad. We didn’t know where Mike was, so I didn’t know if he was alive or dead, because he was in the building.

Heininger

Did you have cell phones? Did you try to reach him?

McGinty

No. My husband had refused to get a cell phone. His company kept bugging him to get a cell phone, and the weekend before that, we had gone to look at cell phone plans for him.

Heininger

Wow.

McGinty

And the line in the Sprint store was just outrageous, and his exact words were, If they want me to get a cell phone, they’re going to have to get one and give it to me. So he didn’t have a cell phone.

Heininger

So you had no way of even trying to reach him.

McGinty

No. And he was based in New York but worked out of the Boston office, but he didn’t report to anybody in the Boston office, so I didn’t even have a number to call in the Boston office, and everybody he worked for in New York was in the meeting with him.

Heininger

Oh my.

McGinty

So I had no one to call. I didn’t know what happened to him. I didn’t know if he was in the building, if he got out of the building. He wasn’t on the airplane, so I didn’t know what happened to him. My theory was if it was bad, if he was dead, there was plenty of time for the boys to know that. So I finally made everybody go home, and they were all, We can’t leave you alone. I said, No, go home, because if the boys come home and they see you all here, they’re going to know something is really bad. My family is on their way. Janet, the children’s minister from our church, has the boys, so I’m not going to be alone when she gets here, and she’s going to be here any minute. Everybody get out of here.

Janet brought the boys home and I told them what happened. That was our first real adult conversation, and they were seven and eight. I said that something bad happened in New York; a plane crashed into the building where we thought Daddy was, but we didn’t know if he got out and that phone lines were down, that we couldn’t get a call in or out and that I just didn’t know anything.

Heininger

Did you have the TV on at this point?

McGinty

No, I turned it off, and I told them that I would never lie to them, I would always tell them the truth, and if they had any questions I would answer them, and that I would tell them as much as I knew. Right now all I knew was that Dad was in New York, we were going to look for him, but I didn’t know what happened, and that Mrs. Sides, Janet, was going to take them to the park for a little while, because I thought they needed to run off some steam and I was going to try to figure out what happened.

Heininger

But you still had nobody to call.

McGinty

No. So Janet took them to the park for a while, just so I could kind of collect myself, and my family showed up. And then someone called from the Boston office, this guy John Smith, who was head of the Boston office, and said they didn’t know anything either. They did know that one guy from the Boston office happened to be in the building, and he got out and he ran from ground zero up to Avenue of the Americas, and gave them information about who he saw and who he knew was in the building and who he knew got out, and he was working the phone bank there. Mike wasn’t on the list.

Heininger

Did you ever know what floor he was on?

McGinty

Mike was on the 99th floor.

Heininger

Not a good floor.

McGinty

I knew he was on the 99th floor, I knew who he was with, and I asked for a map of the 99th floor, I asked for the conference room he was in, and I asked John to come to the house to bring me that and bring me where the plane crashed into the building so I could figure out—because the floors are an acre big. I wanted to know, was he on the side of the building where the plane came in or not. And then I asked him to get me a list of all the hospitals, a list of everybody’s wives’ phone numbers who were in the meeting with him. And so my sister and I sat up all that night calling hospitals to see if Mike had been reported admitted to any of them.

Heininger

So this whole day you still have no information.

McGinty

Nothing, and Sue and I stayed up all night. We split the list, because there was one woman in Connecticut whose husband I sort of knew. We had never met, but I called her. She and I split the list of hospitals, because it was really hard to get through, and every hospital that we got through to we asked for our husbands and each others’ husbands, and made a pact to call each other so that at least we didn’t have to call the whole list of hospitals, we just were calling half the hospitals. Sue took half the list and I took half the list, and they brought me a cell phone.

Heininger

Did you get the information on the floor plan for the building and where the plane hit?

McGinty

He got back to me—he didn’t bring it to me that day but he got it for me the next day.

Heininger

So you really had no information.

McGinty

I had no clue.

Heininger

No information.

McGinty

Nothing. And then I asked him, Should I go to New York? And he said, Hold on, because we’re trying to make some arrangements and figure things out. So then the next day—

Heininger

That must have absolutely driven you crazy, having no information like that. But it also keeps hope, I guess.

McGinty

Well, I knew it was bad right away. I just had a feeling.

Heininger

Which floors did the plane go into?

McGinty

The way it went in, and I didn’t know this at the time, it came in kind of sideways and it grazed the bottom of the floor that he was in. So he had no chance of getting out.

Heininger

Yes.

McGinty

I’ve found out since then he probably didn’t die right away, but he knew he was a goner, and he probably died from smoke inhalation and the collapse of the building. But he was on the opposite side of the building, so there was no way out, and he probably died in the collapse of the building. But I found out all that afterwards, when I spoke with the medical examiner. I think I was just sort of numb, so I wasn’t—I don’t remember falling apart, because everybody around me was falling apart. My sister really fell apart and my mother wasn’t really being helpful, because she’s older. I knew the boys were really upset, and I didn’t want them to see me crack, because I figured if they saw me fall apart, they would know how bad it really was, and I knew it was bad and I figured there was plenty of time for that. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.

Heininger

Did you have a gut sense at this point?

McGinty

Yes, but I didn’t want to trust it.

Heininger

For good reason too.

McGinty

And I just figured if Mike was dead, there was plenty of time for that, and I just didn’t want to believe it yet. I just kept telling everybody, Look, he’s a Navy-trained nuclear engineer; if anybody would be levelheaded about it, it’s Mike, and if there’s any way out of the building, he’d be the one to figure it out. I also felt like Mike really believed in God, and so I felt like—and this will sound strange—I just knew if he was going to die he would be at peace, because his faith would get him through. So I clung to that, like either way, he was OK. It was a horrible way to go, but he would either cling to his faith or he would be calm in a horrible situation, because he would be calm for the people around him. He was the kind of guy who was a good leader in a bad situation. He was cool under pressure, so I clung to that.

My sister and I stayed up most of the night. Eventually she went to bed. A little aside, and I don’t know if I’ll take this out or not, but she ended up drinking a bottle of wine and getting really sick.

Heininger

A good reason to, boy.

McGinty

And I remember about 3:00 in the morning hearing her up in the bathroom getting sick and thinking, She’s not my wife, I don’t have to take care of her; I have enough problems of my own. My mother was really ticked at her, but I thought, If I could do that, I’d probably be up there doing it too, but that was so not helpful to me. I’m thinking, I need people to be helpful to me and that’s so not helpful, so I’m just going to keep my eye on the job at hand. So I just knew all these people around me are falling apart. I can’t do that, because if I fall apart, the boys are going to know how bad it is.

Heininger

Were you getting more—I’m just trying to think of myself in that kind of situation. I think the uncertainty is what would have made me frantic, just the more time that went on not knowing anything, not knowing anything, but it sounds like you did the exact opposite. I have to be the strong one so I’m just not going to be reacting.

McGinty

Yes. Nobody around me was being the strong one, so I just knew I had to be the strong one. My kids—Daniel, it was like a light switch went off. He was so close to Mike that I could see he was falling apart. I could see him disintegrating before my eyes and I just knew I was going to have a huge problem with him right away. They immediately went downstairs, in the toy room, and built two, to scale, with LEGOs, World Trade Center towers, and started crashing stuff into them. I mean, talk about working stuff out through play.

Heininger

Yes, that would have been very hard.

McGinty

It was creepy. Each LEGO block was two floors, and they counted it up, and they had the little towers on it, they had a North Tower, a South Tower, they started to build the buildings around it. And then when people came in, they turned the TV on again, so it just played over and over and over again, and I lost control of the house, so the boys saw a lot more than they should have. It was kind of total chaos. And then, it was before we left for New York. I’m fuzzy on when we went to New York. At some point, I think it was the 12th or 13th, maybe, we ended up going to New York. Marsh sent us to New York—the company that Mike worked for—and they put us up in the Millennium Hotel. They had three floors. They gave us two connecting rooms, one for the boys, one for my sister and me. The boys slept in the same bed as me and wouldn’t leave me. They had one floor of computers and phone banks, and they had another floor set up for daycare for kids, where you could leave your kids with therapists. It wasn’t just childcare. They had another floor with benefit analysts and stuff.

Heininger

Wow.

McGinty

In there they had family liaisons who were trained people from a grief center, who were assigned to you to help you, because we had to fill out missing persons reports. If you needed toothpaste, they’d go get you toothpaste. Whatever you needed, they would get it done.

Heininger

How many people did they have at risk?

McGinty

Close to 400.

Heininger

Oh, my God. So they really did need a really organized effort.

McGinty

Oh, yes. They would help you do whatever you needed to do. They had an area with food 24 hours a day. So they ended up—this John Smith came back, because I kept saying, Should I go to New York, should I go to New York, and figure out what to do, and he kept telling me to stay put. And then he called me the next day and said OK, they’re ready now, and this is what the deal is, you go to New York. And they said, Do you want to take the train, do you want us to send you a car, or do you want to fly? And I said, No, I don’t want to fly. Yes, I want to fly into New York. No thanks.

Heininger

There’s a certain irony in that.

McGinty

I know. No thanks.

Heininger

I understand why the question was asked, but it would be probably the one and only time you might have thought about laughing.

McGinty

Yes, no thanks. I needed somebody at the house in case Mike called, and my mother, who can’t walk from here to the door, has two bad knees. She wanted to come to New York with us. She kind of drives me nuts and I had zero patience. I was barely holding it together, so I had zero tolerance for things. And I said, No, somebody needs to be at the house to answer the phone. Suppose Mike calls. So I made her stay at the house, which she was forever ticked off at me about, and I brought my sister and Daniel and David, because they had therapists and psychiatrists and psychologists who would evaluate the kids there for me, and we went to New York. I also did not want the boys out of my sight.

While we were there, I met with benefit people, because I thought, We’re broke. I didn’t know—until we get life insurance—we’re broke. Are they going to stop his paychecks? What do we have for money? I didn’t know.

Heininger

Had you been involved in dealing with any of the finances for your family?

McGinty

That was Mike’s job. We had a very traditional marriage. I stayed home and took care of the kids and he did the finances and worked. I kind of knew where stuff was, but he made all the money. I knew we had life insurance and I knew where the policies were, but I knew if he was dead they weren’t going to pay out right away.

Heininger

Did you have wills?

McGinty

No. That was the other problem, and I’ll tell you why. Mike and I hardly fought about anything, but we had a big fight about it, because my sister doesn’t go to church and doesn’t believe in God, and I wanted her to be the kids’ guardian and he said, If something happens to both of us, I don’t want her to get the kids. Mike wasn’t sure Sue would raise the kids in the church. And I thought, How can I tell my sister that? So we had decided we’d give ourselves until December to talk about this and discuss it, but by December we had to come to some conclusion.

Heininger

So here you were, no information, assistance from his firm, everybody falling apart around you, knowing you’re going to have a huge problem with at least one of your sons.

McGinty

Yes.

Heininger

Still no information. No idea about finances, had not handled the finances, so you had no idea if the worst happened what you were going to do. And there you were in New York, and you already feel like your mother is ticked off at you.

McGinty

Right. My mother does things—Marsh sent a car for us, so we’re in the car and we’re going to the train station, and my mother calls and says to me, How do you work the TV?

Heininger

Thank you, Mom, this is the one question I really needed right now.

McGinty

You’ve got to be kidding me, right? And then, the company car was at Logan, so I called Marsh and said, The car’s at Logan, I don’t know where. So they went and they found it, they brought it to the house, and then she calls me and says, Well, the company car is in the driveway. I didn’t care, it was the company car.

So we finally get to New York and I told her, Just leave it in the driveway, and she said, I think it should be in the garage, it’s a brand new car. I could care less about the company car. So she called me back two days later and said, There was a little problem with the company car. I said, What? She said, I put it in the garage and I scraped the door. Well, she not only scraped the door, she damaged it so bad they had to put a whole new door on it.

Heininger

Oh, my.

McGinty

I was like, I don’t care about the company car.

Heininger

You know, the ironies of when tragedy strikes—some of the things that stick in your mind are the incongruities of what’s happening to you.

McGinty

Yes.

Heininger

It almost is, they assume a degree of importance, yet you’re sitting there going, What does this have to do with the reality of what I’m facing?

McGinty

So we go to New York and we fill out the missing persons report and I meet with benefit people and they tell me they’re going to pay Mike until the end of the year, so I thought, OK, I don’t have to worry about money right away. We’re still going to get a paycheck, Social Security will kick in, I’m going to get Workers’ Comp, it’s going to be fine.

Heininger

But you still have no information.

McGinty

Right. But I still don’t know if he’s alive or dead, really. So we’re in New York and a psychiatrist looks at Daniel and David and tells me, You are going to have a problem with Daniel. I’m going to make some calls around and get you a therapist for him. He needs to see someone right away because he’s already acting out. Now I’m starting to realize. I’m looking around in New York and there are missing person people all over the place. Now, everybody in Massachusetts, most of the people were on the airplane, so they’ve all been called to the airport, they know their loved ones are dead. The FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] has been involved. No one’s contacted me.

Heininger

So at this point you’ve heard from no one.

McGinty

No one.

Heininger

Except your husband’s office.

McGinty

Right.

Heininger

So you not only had no information, but you’re not hearing from anybody.

McGinty

No one. Not the FBI, no one. And I don’t even know who to call.

Heininger

I think it took quite a while before they even had a list of who potentially could have been missing, if not dead. The planes were easy because they had manifests.

McGinty

Right. They were waiting for employers to give them lists of who was in the building. So we go to New York and we’re there a few days and I’m getting sort of good news, bad news, but more bad news than good news.

Heininger

Did you walk down to the site?

McGinty

Well, we go fill out the missing person report at the pier. There are hundreds of New York City detectives sitting at tables, taking missing persons reports, and by this time you kind of get this black humor. So they’re asking me, What’s Mike wearing? I don’t know what he wore that day.

Heininger

And beside the point, men wear suits.

McGinty

Well, it was casual that day.

Heininger

That’s even worse.

McGinty

I leaned over and said to my sister, He probably had on those khaki pants that are all ripped up at the bottom. So I said, khaki pants. He had on a shirt, I don’t know what color, you know. Then I lean over to my sister, He probably had on that nasty sweatshirt, because that’s what he always wore when he was home. And then they said, OK, how much did he weigh? I said, Should I tell the truth, or shave off and give him the weight he would want to be? So we’re kind of going through, because now I’m just exhausted. 

Heininger

Had you gotten any sleep at this point?

McGinty

Oh, no. So we finish that and we’re walking back to the hotel, because I just needed to get some air, and all these New York City detectives are crying, taking all these missing persons reports. So we’re walking back, it’s just Susan and I. Somebody, I guess my sister’s brother-in-law, who works for the Times, had come and taken the boys to go do something for us, so we could go do this. 

We’re walking back to the hotel and we walk sort of near the site, and they wouldn’t let you anywhere near it, but if you lived near it, you could go down there. So I saw this police officer, this woman, and I said, How come, if you live down there, you can go through? And she said, Well, you live down there, but you had to show ID. And I said, Look, my husband was in the building, so he’s down there. Why can’t I get down there? So she said, Give me a minute. She went into a trailer and came back and said, No, they’re not letting anybody down there. She gave me a hug and said, I’m so sorry. I said, It’s so unfair. I just want to get down there to be close to him. I started to cry then, and she said, Look, I’m going to turn my back and I don’t know nothing. If they want to fire me, let them fire me. She turned her back and my sister and I walked down there, and as soon as I saw it, I looked at my sister and she looked at me and I said, He’s dead. Let’s go home, we’re done. 

We walked back to the hotel. I had one more thing I had to do, we did that. I got the name of a therapist for Daniel and I came home.

Heininger

Wow.

McGinty

And on the train ride home, I called my pastor and said, We need to do a memorial service. Here’s what I want.

Heininger

Just as soon as you walked down there and saw.

McGinty

I knew, there’s no way. He was on the 99th floor and Mike was never late for a meeting. He’s dead. I do not care what they tell me. We’ve called all the hospitals, there’s no way he survived that.

Heininger

And you’re still not falling apart.

McGinty

No. The only time I really fell apart was when they wouldn’t let me down to the site.

Heininger

You had a good reason to fall apart at that point.

McGinty

But as soon as I saw, my sister and I looked at each other and I said, We’ve got to get out of here, because people were still sitting around tables at Marsh saying, We’re going to find him. You know? And I thought, I don’t want the kids to hear that, because it’s just going to get their hopes up.

So we came home and that’s when the obituary went in the paper. That night I got a phone call. There was this booming voice on the phone and it said, Hi, this is Ted Kennedy from Washington, D.C. And at first I thought, OK, what one of my sick friends is playing a practical joke? And then I thought, No, it’s really him. And he said, I just want to express my condolences and tell you how terrible— And that was just a couple of days after, because we weren’t there that long. We were only there a couple of days. He just said, I’m so sorry, and I just want you to know that anything you need, you let my office know, you let me know, and if you need anything at all, we’re here for you. And I thought, He really means it, and he said, I’m just so sorry.  

I hung up the phone and I said to my sister, Senator Kennedy just called me. She said, No way. And I said yes, and I just thought how hard that must have been for him to pick up the phone, because I know enough about grief to know that when something like that happens, it re-triggers everything for you. Think about it: When a friend dies or somebody, a friend, has a loss, how hard it is to find the right thing to say. I found out later he called every single family. How hard is it to find the right thing to say to all those people you don’t know? And I thought, wow.

It was right after that when we were planning the memorial service I wanted an honor guard. Mike was in the Navy, but I couldn’t find his discharge papers. We didn’t have his memorial service right away, because Mike’s Mom lived in Texas, one of his sisters was living in Santa Fe. His roommate from the Naval Academy was down South. Marsh had lost so many people that they were asking people to spread out memorial services, because they were going to so many that sometimes they were doing two and three a day.

Heininger

For the people who are having to do that, it’s just overwhelming.

McGinty

It was just overwhelming, so we had it a few days after I got back from New York. We were planning the memorial service and I couldn’t find Mike’s DD-214, his discharge papers. His friend from the academy said, Oh, don’t worry about it, I can take care of that. He said, I have my lucky bag, my yearbook from the academy. Mike’s picture is in it. I’ll call the Naval Academy, we’ll get it all straightened out. You’ll get an honor guard. Well, the Navy didn’t want to talk to us because we didn’t have that piece of paper. The Naval Academy wouldn’t help us, and his friend from the academy was mortified. He called us up and he said, I can’t believe the Navy won’t help us.

And so I remembered that Senator Kennedy said, If you need anything at all, you call my office, you call me. I thought, Well, he said he wanted to help; I’m going to call and see if he was true to his word. So I called the office and in less than 24 hours, Tom Crohan from his office had it fixed, and we had an honor guard. Apparently, Mike had been discharged from a different port. Tom had a copy of his DD-214 and he handed it to me and said, Don’t ever lose this, but here it is. It’s amazing, because they were able to cut through all the red tape.

Heininger

That must have been a real surprise to you.

McGinty

I was shocked, because part of me thought, Did he really mean it? 

Heininger

Of course.

McGinty

I was touched enough he called, but I thought, Did he really mean it? In the back of my head I thought, Well, let’s see if he really meant it.

Heininger

And at this point you’ve not heard from anybody else.

McGinty

Oh no, no one.

Heininger

No one?

McGinty

No one, not one person, not one person.

Heininger

So at this point your only contact is with his office.

McGinty

No one else. Jane Swift never called, the airlines never called, the FBI never called, no one.

Heininger

And no other politicians. 

McGinty

Oh no, no one. And he didn’t do it for political gain—you never heard about this. He could have very easily have said in the paper; there was so much out there being publicized about 9/11. He could have very easily come out and made a statement and said, I called all the families and here’s how they’re doing. He could have used it, but no. So then about a month later—

Heininger

At this point, you’ve still not got any official confirmation that he’s dead.

McGinty

No. Because so many families had no wills, at one point they did pass legislation to speed things up, like estates, because we didn’t have wills. They did speed things up with death certificates. If you have no remains you’re supposed to wait a year, because technically there’s no body, there’s no death. So we did get death certificates that just said presumed dead, so that we could settle estates and things.

Heininger

Was somebody putting names on a list somewhere?

McGinty

Yes. I got a letter from Marsh eventually that verified that Mike was presumed at that meeting. But that was also heartbreaking, because you know, I had to sign papers that said I accepted the fact that Mike was at that meeting and was presumed dead.

Heininger

Was there even a little piece of you that was holding out, thinking maybe there’s still some chance that he’s escaped? Or you saw it and you just said, That’s it, I know.

McGinty

I saw it and said that was it, but I think every family, until you get that first remain, always hopes they’ll walk through the door. And even once you do get the first notification—it’s kind of gruesome—for me, until I looked at the remain—I had to go to New York and see the remains and see a specific remain—when Mike was in the Naval Academy, he broke his cheek and it had to be wired together. That’s the remain I had to see to know it was Mike, because you didn’t get a body back, you got pieces, and sometimes you got multiple calls as they identified things.

Heininger

Well, and the horrendous task that they had, of all of the rubble.

McGinty

They’re still sifting and getting pieces.

Heininger

With remains.

McGinty

Now they’re sifting the Fresh Kills Landfill, and I still get e-mails every day saying they’re finding more. It’s eight and a half years later, so it just goes on and on and on. A month after September 11, the Red Cross, the United Way, all these people collected all this money, and they were so messed up in how they were doling it out to families and deciding who got what. The only people who had their act together was the Salvation Army.

So a month after September 11, was it a month after? It was a little while after September 11 I got a letter from Senator Kennedy’s office. They had gotten together the FBI, the Red Cross, the United Way, Social Security, a bunch of people, to come to Boston, to I think it was the Park Plaza maybe, or the Parker House, and they were all going to be in one room. He invited all the 9/11 families to come to this room, and they would give us information, but it would be like one-stop shopping. I was so aggravated with all those people, because in New York, they were all at this place called the pier. So you could go down to the pier and you could sit in front of them and fill out the applications and they would help you. But in Massachusetts, we didn’t have any place like that. And because Mike was in the building, I wasn’t getting any information because I wasn’t connected into the airlines.

Here’s an example of how frustrating it was. Because Mike was in the building, I could go through the New York Crime Victims Board, but the people on the airplane could go through the Massachusetts Crime Victims Board and the New York Crime Victims Board. I couldn’t go through the Massachusetts Crime Victims Board, so they got two awards. They got money from the New York Crimes Victims Board and the Massachusetts Crime Victims Board, because they were on the plane and the plane left from Massachusetts, and they crashed into the building in New York.

Heininger

That’s not fair.

McGinty

Tell me about it.

Heininger

Residency.

McGinty

Well, it wasn’t about residency. It was about where the crime took place. So that’s how frustrating it got.

Heininger

At any point, did any of the people from any of these agencies contact you?

McGinty

No. You had to contact them. And then you’d find out, like the Buddhist Compassion Fund was giving out aid. Well, I would find it out because I had a friend in New Jersey who went to the pier and she found it out, and she’d call me and say, Did you know that the Buddhist Compassion Fund is giving out money, and they’re helping pay for children’s therapy? It was just craziness how you were finding out about all this stuff. The Senator’s office tried to get all this information and put it in one room. At this point nobody in my house was sleeping, everybody was in my bed, I sent all my family home, because I thought, first of all, my mother was driving me nuts. I just said to them all, You’ve got to go home, because we’ve got to figure out how to do this. We have to figure out how to be the new McGintys without Mike, and you can’t stay here forever, so go home.

Daniel was really acting out aggressively. He went from a straight-A student with all 10s for perfect conduct to he couldn’t even sit in a chair for two minutes at school. Every time the phone rang, he was acting out at school, and David was his favorite target. So my poor son, David, not only lost his Dad, but he lost his best friend. Poor Daniel was so traumatized he didn’t know what to do.

Heininger

Which one is the elder?

McGinty

Daniel. So I get this letter from Senator Kennedy’s office. I used to be a very shy person. I never even took the train into Boston by myself. Mike would say, Pick me up at Logan. I’d say, Call Boston Coach, because I’m not driving into Logan. I get this letter and I decide I’m going, and I’m going to speak up because I’m sick of this. The night before, I get the train schedule and I’m in my head counting how many stops is it until I get to the right stop. I map out how I get to the Park Plaza. People must have thought I was a schizophrenic person on the train, because I’m practicing over and over in my head what I’m going to say at this meeting. I get on the train, I’m counting the stops. I get out of the train, I like ask nine people how to get to the Park Plaza, which is not that far from the train station. I get in, I look—it’s a huge ballroom and it’s packed with all these families. I sit down, I know no one, not one person and I am scared to death. Half these families know each other because they all had been—

Heininger

Because they had family on the plane.

McGinty

They’ve all known each other because they’ve all been to the airport before together. Half of them met each other when they got together with United Airlines, the other half know each other because they got with American Airlines. Up in front of the room is the Red Cross, the United Way, the FBI, and Senator Kennedy’s office. So Senator Kennedy gets up and he speaks and he’s telling everybody about how it’s really great that the Red Cross is here, the United Way, and they’re really going to help you and they’ve been helping you. It’s like a little show and he said, And now they’re going to go to back and they’re going to sit at tables and they’re going to help you out. 

He starts to dismiss everybody and I raised my hand and in a mousy voice I said, Excuse me, I have a question. He says, Oh, wait a minute. Yes? I stood up and I said, My name is Cindy McGinty, I’m from Foxboro, Massachusetts, and I just have to tell you, I have a seven and an eight year old, I’m totally grief-stricken, and I can barely get out of the bed in the morning. Every single one of you people up there, you all say you want to help us but you’re not, you’re just getting in my way. You all want a form from me, it’s all the same information, they’re all 20 pages long, and I can’t do this anymore. And with that, everybody in the room started to clap, because they were all having the same problem. And he just looked like, Wow, we didn’t know. 

Apparently he got in his car afterwards, and now I know who the person was, but told his staff, I don’t ever want to hear that Mrs. McGinty has another problem. Fix it and fix it now and fix it fast. And what he did was he established a program for all the families of 9/11 where we all got an advocate, who—and this is where he truly understood it—they would come only if you wanted and you were ready, and they would do as little or as much as you wanted. It was a trained social worker who would come to your house. They would find you counseling if you were ready, they would fill out forms if that’s what you wanted. They would go to the post office and get you stamps if that’s what you needed. They would do as little or as much as you were ready for. With that, my life changed. I finally got dug out of all this—I mean, you should have seen my kitchen table. It was just piled with forms and papers that needed to be filled out.

I got this woman named Maureen who came to my house almost every day for two weeks, and we filled out every piece of paperwork I needed to fill out. She helped with Daniel, she got me hooked in with people so I got respite care. We found a therapist for Daniel, a therapist for David, and a therapist for me, and my life changed, and it was all because of him.

Heininger

I wouldn’t even be surprised if he didn’t pay for it out of his own pocket.

McGinty

I don’t know, but every single family in Massachusetts got an advocate.

Heininger

That’s really astonishing.

McGinty

Yes. And that’s not the only time he helped. There was a memorial service in New York, and this is how crazy it was. American Airlines was flying the families from Massachusetts down for free. They had a shuttle going to the memorial service. So I called American Airlines and I said, Can I get on the shuttle? And they said no, because Mike was not in the airplane. So I got really mad and I said—this is not my proudest moment. I said, Well, technically, he wasn’t in the airplane, but he was all over your airplane. And the woman said to me, If you’re going to be like that, we’re not even going to give you a special rate.

Heininger

Are you serious?

McGinty

Yes.

Heininger

She said that to you?

McGinty

Yes.

Heininger

Good thing you weren’t in the same room with her.

McGinty

Yes. After I collected myself I said, Well, can I at least, if I ride on the airplane and pay my own way, can I ride the shuttle buses that you’re running from the airport to Ground Zero? And she said no.

Heininger

You are kidding.

McGinty

That’s how shabbily—they were afraid that if they let me on their shuttle from Boston it would open up the door to too many people. That’s how crazy it was. But you know, when I hung up the phone from them and I got my mail that day, it was American Airlines offering Mike a free credit card.

Heininger

[laughter] Oh, the black humor moments must have just—

McGinty

That was the insanity. Oh, I have an even better one I’ll tell you later. So I called Tom Crohan at Senator Kennedy’s office and he tried really hard to get me on the shuttle, and they wouldn’t even talk to him. He called me back and he said, I’m really sorry, I tried my best. It’s insane, but they’re saying no. They’re afraid that if they let you on, they’ll have to let too many other people on. Isn’t that insane?

Heininger

Yes.

McGinty

The least they could have done. And I don’t think there were that many families in Massachusetts that were just in the building and not on one of the airplanes.

Heininger

Most of them were on the airplanes.

McGinty

Yes. I mean what are we talking, maybe ten people?

Heininger

We’re not talking about opening the floodgates here. It’s not like you were bringing an entourage of 50 people with you.

McGinty

Right. But then, like a year later, I ended up having to hospitalize one of my sons. It just got so bad, and I felt like the therapist he had wasn’t realizing how bad it was at one point, because she just would not consider medication. You know, they’re funny with kids. I didn’t want to put him on medication either, but one night he had a really big meltdown, so I called his therapist and I just got her answering machine, so I held up the phone and I just said, This is Cindy McGinty; I just want you to hear this. And I hung up, and the next day he was on meds, because I just really felt like they were thinking I was overreacting.

Camp Sunshine offered a 9/11 family week, and while we were there, one of my sons had a huge meltdown. When he went on medication, he got referred to a psychiatrist, and I loved his psychiatrist. She was fabulous. When we went up to Camp Sunshine—great name for it—one of my sons had a big meltdown and ended up giving me a black eye. So I ended up calling his psychiatrist, because the therapist up at Camp Sunshine was totally useless. We called him in the middle of the night. He came, he looked at me, and he said, Can I get you some ice? I thought, OK, you’re really helpful. So we ended up calling my son’s psychiatrist and she and I talked over the phone and she said, I think he needs to be hospitalized, just to make sure he’s on the right meds, to get him stabilized. I’m going to call around to some places. 

When I got home we made a plan. I don’t know how he found out, but my phone rang and it was Senator Kennedy and he said, I heard your son’s having some problems. How can we help? I’m going to get you a list of the best doctors, the best hospitals, if you want to talk to these people. So I had Dr. [Sandra] Dejong, who was his psychiatrist, talk to the doctors that Senator Kennedy’s office had. The hospital that I wanted him to go to, she and this other doctor decided that the mix of kids wasn’t a good mix, so they called around and he ended up in a different hospital because the mix of kids was better.

Now I have never, ever, in my life—I don’t know how this worked out, and I’ve never asked, but my son ended up in the hospitals from October to January. Kids don’t end up in the hospital that long. They usually end up a week, stabilized, and then they throw them out. When my son went in, I went in. Poor Dr. Sachs, who ended up as his therapist when he got out. I went in with a letter that my advocate helped me write just saying, You will not release my son without a plan. I will not see him as one of those kids that cycles in and out. This was hard enough to do once, I’m not doing it ever again, and here’s what I want to see before he comes out. 

I wanted to see a different school placement, I wanted a neuro-psych done. I had like ten things that I wanted done, and sure enough, all those things got done. Now I don’t know if Senator Kennedy had any influence on that. I never asked, because I was too afraid to, but when my son came out he ended up in a private school that I found, with the help of Dr. Sachs. The Department of Mental Health paid for the boarding portion and the Foxboro Public School System paid for the school portion of it for a while, and then eventually I ended up having to pay for the school portion, and that was fine, but he ended up in the hospital for that long before we had a plan. He never went back.

Heininger

This must have torn you to shreds.

McGinty

Oh, my gosh. I’ve always said this. I thought Mike dying was the worst thing that ever happened to me. That paled in comparison. How did he find out, you know what I mean? And then to take time out of his day to call me, with all the things that he has on his plate.

[Break]

Heininger

This is a resumption of the interview with Cindy McGinty on April 22.

McGinty

My son ended up at Hillside School, and every year I would send him a letter at the end of the school year, just letting him know how he was doing, and just kind of updating him and thanking him for his support through all the years. I felt after that a lot of my son’s success was due to all the help that he gave us. We’d go to events over the years and he would always ask about the kids. He would always say, How are Daniel and David doing? So I always sent him a little note saying, My son is doing better this year and thanks for all your support.

Then, about I think it was 2004 or ’05, I got a call from one of his staff members, who said, What are you doing this weekend? I didn’t do much except take care of the kids at that point and I said, Nothing. And he said, The Senator would like to take you sailing. And I said, You’re kidding me? He said, No, I’m not. He wants to take you out with some people and the kids. And I thought, The kids, you’re kidding me. Because they weren’t that well behaved at that point. It was a guy named Scott [Fay] who works in his office and I said, Are you sure about the kids? And he said, No, he specifically asked for them. So I said OK. 

I was very nervous about that. Scott called me back a few minutes later and said, The Senator has rethought that a little bit and he wants you to decide who should come. He thought you might be more comfortable with that, so who would you like to bring? I immediately called my sister and said, You’re not doing anything this weekend. You’re coming sailing with us. So my sister and her husband and her son, and Daniel, David, and I all went sailing.

We went up to Hyannis and it was such a great afternoon. It was probably one of the best days of my life. We pulled up and it was just like I remember as a kid, like you saw on the news, when they would be out in the front playing football. It was just that nice atmosphere. We pulled up and Bill Delahunt was sitting on the front porch reading the paper and he said, Oh, come on up. Then the Senator came out and greeted us. You would have thought he had nothing else to do that day. It was so relaxed and comfortable, and he said goodbye to Bill Delahunt and then Sue and I went in and the boys went in and we all changed our clothes. 

My sister and I got really giggly, because the woman who took care of the house said, Oh, why don’t you change in the first floor bedroom, because that’s the only one down here that has a bathroom attached. And as we were walking into the bedroom she said, This used to be President [John F.] Kennedy’s bedroom. So we were in President Kennedy’s bedroom and we’re looking around. There was a framed copy of his inauguration speech. It was like being in someone’s home, but it was almost a museum to us.

Then the Senator came out and said, OK, we’ll go down to the boat now. Why don’t I take the three boys on the golf cart. So I’m thinking, Oh, my gosh, he’s got the three boys all by himself. I hope they behave, and off they go. 

We walked down to the boat and we had just this beautiful afternoon, sailing all around the sound on his boat, just chatting, and he’s so relaxed and he told really funny stories. He’s just so comfortable and a great entertainer. He makes fun of himself and tells funny stories and puts you at ease, and we had lunch on the boat and the boys behaved themselves until Daniel threw a Coca-Cola can at David. But you know, he had a kid from the Mass Maritime Academy who sails with him and he said, Oh, he’s used to that. There’s so many Kennedy kids floating around here, and you don’t think they’re all well behaved all the time. So even that was OK. There’s a lot of little kids floating around here all the time, and he just really enjoys children. You’re just outside in the fresh air and he told lots of historic stories about the family. You honestly would have never thought he had another thing to do.

So we all went out sailing and then we went back in and he took us out on his power boat through Hyannis. And then we went back to the house and the boys swam in the pool for a little while, and he asked if he could speak to me. Now this was 2004-’05, and he asked me how I thought the 9/11 families were doing. Pretty much everybody had figured we were doing fine, everybody else out in the community, and nobody ever, out in the community, with the exception of the Mass 9/11 Fund, was thinking about what do we still need. And there were needs out there. I said to him, off the top of my head I thought we had four needs that still were not being met. Health care insurance premiums and coverage were still a big concern for families, because many families, like myself, we didn’t have employer-subsidized insurance, and premiums are very high.

Heininger

Right.

McGinty

At that point, preexisting conditions now were an issue, especially with mental health coverage. So I thought that was a big issue for families. The [Zacarias] Moussaoui trial was coming up and we needed somebody to advocate for us, because a lot of the families would want to go to that, but it was going to be a very painful process. Where was the trial going to be held, and how were families going to be supported through that? There were a few issues like that. He asked me if I would write a memo to him, but I said I didn’t want the memo to be just my thoughts on what I felt the issues were. I wanted to be able to go back and talk to 9/11 families, so he asked me if I would take some time, go back and talk to families, and then write the memo to him, because he wanted to have his staff work on some of the issues. So I said I’d be happy to do that. 

We were there from around 11:00 to 4:00, and so we left. It was a great day and one of my most memorable. We said goodbye, and we left. I wrote a memo to him, a two-page memo, outlining about five issues that I thought were still important to 9/11 families, and don’t you know, he worked on all five issues and came to a resolution about all of them, and that was 2004-’05. Nobody out in the press or public ever heard about any of this stuff. He never talked about his work with the 9/11 families.

Heininger

No, he didn’t.

McGinty

Nobody ever knew the work he did for us; he kept it very quiet. And every year, on September 11, I got a phone call from him saying, I’m thinking of you today. I still have the last one he ever called me with on my answering machine, and I copied it on my laptop because I just don’t want to lose it.

Heininger

Did you get to know some of the other 9/11 families?

McGinty

Yes, very well. Some of them are my best friends now. The Mass 9/11 Fund, which his staff and he were very active with, is an organization that was started by Eric MacLeish, actually, who was a lawyer with Greenberg Traurig, and that law firm—Teresa Mathai, who is another 9/11 family, Christie Coombs, and myself, along with a grant from Stop & Shop, was started, and is still going today—helped a lot of the 9/11 families, because there were people whose needs weren’t being met by all of these organizations out there, like Carie Lemack, who now is very active in some issues. She was an adult child whose mother died on 9/11 and she wasn’t eligible for any aid. Not only did she lose her mom on 9/11, but she couldn’t pay the mortgage on her family home because she was a young woman and she wasn’t eligible for any aid from the Red Cross or the United Way because she was an adult child. The Mass 9/11 Fund helped her. I mean can you imagine losing your mom and then you can’t pay the mortgage on the house you grew up in—and how much money did the Red Cross collect?

Heininger

Do you have a sense as to how much they actually disbursed?

McGinty

No.

Heininger

There was a big controversy. They made a deliberate decision not to disburse all of it and not to hand all of it out to the families.

McGinty

Right. 

Heininger

So that they would have a rainy day—in essence, a rainy day fund for anything else that might happen.

McGinty

That might happen.

Heininger

And that’s not what people were donating money for.

McGinty

Right. And there were people like Carie Lemack who could have used that money. And we’re not talking about going on a vacation. Carie lost her mom, was responsible for her mother’s debt, yet she was in jeopardy of losing her family home at a time when maybe she would have been ready at some point to let it go, but the month her mother died? Would it have hurt the Red Cross to maybe pay the mortgage for a couple of months? It would not have hurt them, and I don’t think the American people would have thought that was a bad way to spend the money. 

Heininger

No, I think they would have thought that was a very good way to spend the money. That’s what people were donating money for.

McGinty

Right. I mean, she was a 20-something-year-old woman, and that’s why the Mass 9/11 fund was established, to help people like Carie. I just think you have to be able to think out of the box in a situation like that.

Heininger

It sounds like there was a lot of in-the-box thinking about this, which is, I think, not the way it was portrayed publicly.

McGinty

Exactly. Senator Kennedy’s office was very good about helping people with some of the out-of-the-box things. There was also a family, a very gentle family, whose daughter and son-in-law were accused of being with the terrorists and were not, and his family was very upset about that, and Senator Kennedy’s office was able to straighten that out for them. I mean, can you imagine? And it was simply because they looked a certain way and had certain names.

Heininger

A lot of the mentality that was going on at the time.

McGinty

And I know we were all scared, but there was no reason for that. There was absolutely no reason for that. I have to say, Mike was a service guy and I was a registered Republican on 9/11. I’m now a registered Democrat. I was not very political before 9/11. I am now. I have changed the way that I think a lot. 

I was devoted to Senator Kennedy. I just think the world of him. He inspired me a lot. I still, to this day, consider him my mentor and consider him a role model, when I look back and realize all that he’s done. I think that we are all flawed human beings, because many people point to only his flaws, but when you look at the things that he accomplished over his career, I just think that he’s an amazing man. I think that if I could be half the person that he was, I would be really something.

Heininger

What had you thought of him before 9/11 took place and you ended up with personal interaction with him? He’d been your Senator for a long time.

McGinty

He had been my Senator for a long time and I thought that he was a very effective Senator. I have come to a new appreciation about how much experience matters in Washington and how much—I think that he was a really good consensus builder. I think he really knew how to be a good Senator, far more than some of our other experienced Senators, and he didn’t use things for political gain. I didn’t always realize that before, and sometimes that’s easier to do after someone’s gone, but it really struck home with me after 9/11. I had a whole new appreciation after 9/11. 

I didn’t always agree with everything, but I came to realize how he made his decisions, what a studied man he was, before he made a decision how much he consulted other sources. I think that came from—I grew up a lot after 9/11 and paid more attention. 

I think 9/11 was my personal wakeup call, and I’m sorry that it came so late in my life. I took so much for granted before that. I’m in some ways grateful that it happened, it’s sort of the yin and yang of things, because I have a whole different viewpoint of how politics works, and I think that Senator Kennedy taught me very valuable lessons about how to study what goes on in Washington and make better voting decisions, like the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. I watched how he made his decisions about them and even how he felt about them, how he never abandoned the soldiers.

Heininger

Even in being against the war, he never abandoned the soldiers.

McGinty

He never abandoned them, and how he really studied and had very educated opinions about them. He didn’t just shoot from the hip and say I’m for or against it. He really consulted a lot of people before he published his opinion. If you read his speeches on them, they’re very educated speeches. You hear a lot of people chanting rhetoric or what people want to hear, and if you listen to what he says, they’re very educated remarks, yet he doesn’t walk away from people, and I think that’s the key to his greatness.

Heininger

But at the same time your interactions with him and experience with him are altering your view of politics. Did you even hear from any other politicians?

McGinty

No.

Heininger

So you didn’t hear from your other Senator, you didn’t hear from your Governor?

McGinty

No.

Heininger

Shall we say the personal touch was lacking there.

McGinty

Oh, yes. Well, I have to say, when we dedicated the Boston Public Memorial—and I was very angry about this—Senator [John] Kerry showed up, but he was running for President.

Heininger

Yes, he was.

McGinty

And when he showed up, I had a very interesting interaction that day. The Secret Service showed up with him. Now, they showed up with him because he was running for President. I made my feelings known that I did not want him there because he has never really supported—he’s on our—I should probably keep my feelings to myself because I am an honorary member of the family advisory committee and I was an active member of the family advisory committee of the Mass 9/11 Fund, and Senator Kerry is an honorary board member. However, I’m not going to keep my mouth shut.

We had a breakfast that morning and Senator Kennedy was there. I love Senator Kennedy. He’s so cute. I sat at the table with him and he signed my program. He wrote a little note on there and said, How are my two young sailors doing? And he slid it across to me. I was asked to sit at his table because we have a relationship. I got separated from my family, they were sitting at another table, and I was happy to do that. Our table got over to the memorial first, before my family got over there, and I was standing there and I ended up over there sort of alone, and some of the other families ended up over there with their families. 

I was standing there, kind of feeling alone, and somehow I think Senator Kennedy had to leave, and I was feeling kind of by myself. If you’ve never seen the memorial, it’s really worth going to see some time, if you’re ever in Boston. It’s beautiful. It’s kind of low to the ground and it has a nice inscription. I was standing there by myself, and this is how well trained his staff is.  All of a sudden I felt an arm around me, and it was my friend, Scott, who works for him, and I thought, I’m not alone. It just was such a nice gesture for Scott, because he saw me standing there by myself. And then, all of a sudden, a lot of other family members came in and my family was with me. 

All of a sudden a motorcade pulls up and it’s John Kerry and the Secret Service. Well, Daniel, who doesn’t like a lot of people around, all of a sudden there are swarms of people, and people are cutting in front and Daniel starts to get aggravated, and I said to my sister, I’m going to go get his medicine. It’s back in my purse at the hotel across the street. So I go across the street to get his medicine and I come back, and now the Secret Service are blocking the way because John Kerry is over there.

Heininger

They didn’t want to let you in?

McGinty

Yes. And I said, I’m a family member. And he said, Ma’am, I don’t really care, the Senator is over there. And so I’m looking at my sister, she’s looking at me, Daniel’s about to have his meltdown and I have his medicine, and they would not let me through. So I’m thinking to myself, Well, you just may have to shoot my son, because he’s about to have a meltdown. But they would not let me through. So I’m thinking, Nice, I’m a family member and John Kerry’s over there. Who’d he lose?

Heininger

You didn’t pitch a fit?

McGinty

I was ready to, but I was just—

Heininger

Gosh, I would have. I know me. I would have. I would have just thrown a big fit.

McGinty

It’s just so not my style, you know?  But I thought, This is why I didn’t want him here, because it’s a photo-op for him.

Heininger

I’m actually floored that the Secret Service were that insensitive that they were keeping out a family member. That’s what the event was all about.

McGinty

Right. Well, I’m floored that Senator Kerry would show up. I’m floored that he’s that insensitive, that he would use it as a photo-op.

Heininger

To a certain extent, it’s almost less that than everything he was doing at that point. Running for President was a photo-op, by definition that’s what happens. However, I’m sure all those press got in.

McGinty

Oh, yes. So I just thought—

Heininger

How did Daniel do?

McGinty

Well, thankfully, most of the family members he was being mean to know him and know that he just doesn’t like crowds, and the other family members who were there don’t come that often. Sue said he wasn’t being very nice, and then by the time I got over there, most people were gone, but everybody was swarming around Senator Kerry.

Heininger

How long were you kept out?

McGinty

Enough time that it was ugly.

Heininger

Enough time that it was making you very concerned.

McGinty

But I thought, OK, get your gun ready, because if he really goes, he’s going to go.

Heininger

Wow. Tell me about the Victim Compensation Fund. Did you have any dealings with it?

McGinty

Yes. I feel like—and I know that Senator Kennedy liked Ken Feinberg, whom I cannot stand. I felt like if I had it to do over again, I would have handled things much differently. I don’t feel like I got a good award. I don’t feel like I was compensated for what happened to Daniel, and I know that Ken Feinberg would tell you, How do you compensate someone for a life? I feel like I got a crappy award. Senator Kennedy’s office did intervene on my behalf and he re-looked at it and I did get a bit more. 

I felt like Ken Feinberg was cocky. I felt like it was blood money from the government because people fell down on the job. I felt like the airlines allowed people to get on that they were warned about. They let people on with box cutters and mace, and we bailed them out. I felt like I didn’t have a choice because Mike was in the building and not on the airplanes, and so if there was any award made for people in the building, it would have been split with 3,000 people, plus all the property damage that was done. 

I’m not a person who wanted to sue. I feel like nobody in the end was held accountable for it. I feel like George [W.] Bush had enough information and didn’t make it a priority. I feel like Condoleezza Rice knew what was going on, I feel like Dick Cheney knew what was going on. I feel like my government let me down and I feel like if they thought I got a good enough award, they should have come and babysat my kids for one night and then tell me I got a good enough award. They should have come and walked in my shoes for a week then tell me that I was compensated fairly, and they should come and pay my bills now. Daniel’s tuition for next year, for which there’s no financial aid available, is $53,000. I’m sorry, I don’t think I got a good award, and there’s no way I could have conceived of that when I filled out the paperwork. He has been in private school since fifth grave with no financial aid. The school system stopped helping in sixth grade.

Heininger

I was not aware that there was such a discrepancy between how the families of the victims who were on the planes were treated versus those who were in the buildings. That surprises me, because that’s not the way it has been portrayed publicly, that all the 9/11 victims’ families are kind of lumped together.

McGinty

No. I think it depends on if you’re a fireman, a policeman, if you’re a 9/11 family victim member that was in the building and living in New York, versus a 9/11 family victim member that lived anywhere else but New York; if you were on an airplane, or if you took the Victims Compensation money versus if you didn’t. I think there are a few of us, me included, and I don’t think I’m being bitter about it, I really don’t. I think if you were in New York, it just was easier because you were in New York, and they had things set up for you. Even organizations like Tuesday’s Children that have mentoring programs that offer a lot of things, like take your child to work, that offer lots of great opportunities for kids. They’re based in New York. If you’re a fireman, they—I try not to say this. I know they were the heroes of the day, they really were, they ran into burning buildings. They were compensated so much better than a lot of the other victims, and we don’t know what those other victims did. Those stories aren’t told. And I’m really tired of hearing about the heroes and the victims.

Heininger

Well, frankly, you can look at it another way and say those people were doing their jobs.

McGinty

Yes. And there were people who were heroic that day, there’s no question about it, because there’s all kinds of people. But I’m really tired of the victim label. I wish we could just call them all people. Everybody was there that day, they all died. Does it really matter? Everybody died that day.

Heininger

Yes.

McGinty

I’m real tired of the heroes and victims and I wish—there’s so much hurt. Can’t we just let it go and just be together and comfort each other, and does it really matter who was what?  Because we don’t know all the stories, like Sally White, who lost her daughter Susan. She was last seen telling people to get out of the building. What does that make her? Everybody’s all—like if you go to the Boston Public Garden. I let go of a lot of things. I don’t do group process very well sometimes, like the Boston Public Garden, people wanted designations next to people’s names. I’m personally not for that because it distinguishes people. It was a random act.

I was at a meeting with a friend—people wanted the designation, like captain, if they were in the Fire Department, or captain if they were the plane pilot. And I learned over to a friend of mine and said, Well, what should we put next to Mike—my poor slob who happened to go to work that day? Can’t you just put names?

Heininger

Ultimately all that matters is that they’re all people.

McGinty

They’re dead, you know?

Heininger

And they’re all dead.

McGinty

Yes. So I have a hard time with that. I just think, yes, I’m grateful to the Victims Compensation Fund, because it allows me to continue my standard of living, but I get mad when people say, Well, you have the Victims Compensation Fund. Well, I didn’t ask for it. My government gave it to me to shut up, basically. They bailed out the airlines. Do you ever hear about that? I have very mixed feelings about it. I had very mixed feelings about taking the money. It was an arduous, horrible process to go through, and in the end, I don’t think it compensated me for what I went through, so why do we call it a Victims Compensation Fund?  Why don’t we just call it the shut up and go away fund?

I read in the paper the other day—and I don’t mean this to sound horrible, but there was a doctor’s family that was killed in Cheshire here and people are saying, Oh, it’s two years later and they haven’t even begun jury selection. And I’m thinking, It’s eight and a half years later and we haven’t even decided whether we’re going to do a military or a civil trial. I feel bad for that family, I really do. I hope that they get some peace and I hope that they do select a jury and convict the guy, but we have five terrorists who have already admitted they did it. They’d spit in our face and do it again, and we haven’t even decided whether it’s going to be a military or a civilian trial. We can’t even get that right. And oh, by the way, we’ve just begun to re-sift—get the name—Fresh Kills Landfill. Nobody had the forethought to rename it? We just hauled it off away into Fresh Kills?

Heininger

A new name would be nice.

McGinty

Yes, you know. So there’s a lot of hurt out there. I feel like Senator Kennedy was there for us. Who’s there for us now? There isn’t anybody.

Heininger

Did you have any interaction with any of the families from other states?

McGinty

Yes.

Heininger

Do you have a sense as to the kind of—was the assistance that Kennedy provided unique, from what you could tell?

McGinty

Yes, very. Because it was so—I think other families had assistance in terms of—the only way I can describe it was his help was personal. It was very personal. It had that very personal, emotional touch, and I think it’s because he understood the process. That’s how I felt about it. And he never cared whether you were Republican, Democrat, or Independent. It wasn’t for political gain at all, and that was the unique thing about it. He wasn’t benefiting from it at all. He did it because he truly cared and he took time and resources for it, which is unique for a politician.

Heininger

It still amazes me you never heard from any others. You never heard from Kerry or you never heard from your Governor or anyone. That to me is kind of amazing.

McGinty

Well, and you think, Sally White, her daughter went to school with Jane Swift.

Heininger

You would think.

McGinty

You’d think she’d at least hear from her.

Heininger

And she never did?

McGinty

No.

Heininger

That’s like mothers at the same school.

McGinty

Right. And I think that was the difference with Senator Kennedy. It was very personal, it was very heartfelt. He just was incredible. I always think it’s because he truly understood it. It came from his heart. It wasn’t just simply a gesture. He really meant it. And I think I could, even in Connecticut—I called his office one day and I got Tom, a guy who works for him, and I said, I know I live in Connecticut and I should call Chris Dodd’s office. He said, Oh, you’ll always be a constituent, don’t worry about it, and I always felt that way. So it wasn’t just because he was our Senator, it was because he was a man who cared about you, and I think that was the big difference.

Heininger

Did you deal mostly with the people in his Boston office, his Massachusetts office, or in Washington?

McGinty

Both.

Heininger

Both?

McGinty

Yes. Well, I got to know Tom Crohan in Boston and Scott Fay in his Washington office, and I had both their numbers, so I would call whomever and I’d say, I know this probably isn’t you, but here’s my question, who do I talk to? And they would say, Oh, that’s one for so and so, or Let me get you the right person, or I’ll take care of that. 

The other thing that he helped us do is the Mass Military Heroes Fund after 9/11. The Mass 9/11 Fund was funded by the United We Stand license plates, and a quarter of the revenue that comes in from those goes to fund some equipment for the police and fire department in Massachusetts. Three-quarters of the revenue goes to the Mass 9/11 Fund, and a quarter of that revenue went to fund the Boston Public Garden. 

Once we got that done and funded, we didn’t need that money for that anymore, but the Mass 9/11 families didn’t want to just give it back. We wanted to have a say about where it went. I had been talking to Tom Crohan in the Senator’s office. We always had an idea to create something similar for families who lost someone in Iraq and Afghanistan, so with the Senator’s help we created this Mass Military Heroes Fund. Christie Coombs is on the board, Steve Kerrigan, who used to work for the Senator, is our board president, and myself. We share resources with the Mass 9/11 Fund. We share Diane Nealon, who is the executive director of the Mass 9/11 Fund, and Erica Cabag, who is the administrative assistant, and then we’ve expanded our board, so we have Matt Anderson. Mary Kakas is on the board now. I’m missing somebody and I can’t think of who it is, and myself. [Ed. Note: Maura Yanosick] 

We have this Mass Military Heroes Fund that supports families who lost someone in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the same way that the Mass 9/11 Fund supported 9/11 families, and that was kind of a dream of the Senator’s, so we’re really happy that that is up and off the ground. It doesn’t recreate anything that’s out there, but it fills the gaps. We have a basic needs program and we create community events to bring them together, and the basic needs program helps people. There is a widower on the Cape who needed help with a mortgage payment, so we helped her fill that gap until we can get her connected in with some agencies out there. She lost her husband. There was a soldier who was just killed in Afghanistan, so we’ll reach out to the family to make sure that they have a list of resources available to them and they know about us so that we can help them when they’re ready. Again, that was a dream of the Senator’s, to have a similar organization for those families, so we’ve been able to make that happen. It’s kind of a way to pay it forward for the Mass 9/11 families, and it’s nice to see something that he wanted to see happen, happen.

Heininger

It must have been very satisfying to do that.

McGinty

You know, it’s funny—he has these prints that he used to give to fundraisers for nonprofits. I bought one and you can send it back to him and he will personalize it, and he’ll sign it for you. So I bought one at an auction and I sent it in, and he personalized it for me. I look at it every day and I always think, If he thinks that about me, I’d better do something. I’ll start to feel sorry for myself and I’ll think, He never felt sorry for himself, I can get up and do something good today. Because honestly, you look at what he’s been through, my gosh. If he can get up and do something good for somebody today, so can I. He really is what drives me.

Heininger

The 9/11 experience really changed you, didn’t it?

McGinty

It did. I used to be a mousy, shy person. No more. Because I realize now life is precious. You have to do something with it.

Heininger

Yes.

McGinty

And I think he taught me that. You can’t look back and look at the mistakes you’ve made. Yes, they’re part of who you are, but you really have to take that and drive yourself forward and be the person who you are meant to be.

Heininger

But you might not have been, without 9/11.

McGinty

I wouldn’t have been, and I think that’s one of the blessings of it. I wouldn’t have been the person that I am today. I’d give anything to have Mike back, but definitely, that experience made me who I am today.

Heininger

How are your kids doing?

McGinty

Better. I think that David will come out of this a better person for it. I think Daniel will struggle his whole life, but he is stronger as well. I feel bad for my kids because they don’t have the life that they should have had, but I think they’ll be OK. I feel bad for them because they were old enough, they were seven and eight, so they’ll never have a father. I think some of the younger kids were young enough where they could still have a father, but Daniel and David were old enough where they’ll never have a father, they’ll never have that experience, and I feel really horrible about that for them. But they also had a great Dad for the seven and eight years that they had him. He was a phenomenal father, so they were luckier than some kids who have a Dad all their life and don’t get a good one.

Heininger

That’s true.

McGinty

But I feel bad that they will never have a Dad. I tell them all the time, Every family has its tragedy. This one’s ours. This is your story. You have to make it what you will.

Heininger

Tell me about the scholarship you set up.

McGinty

Mike was always big on volunteering. He was very active in our church and always made time for people. He never said to somebody, I don’t have time for that. After he died, I wanted to do something to—I think Elizabeth Edwards always said, when you say somebody’s name, it always keeps them alive. So I wanted to find a way to keep Mike’s name alive and his essence alive, and so after he died, we started thinking about what could we do. Somebody suggested a run, but Mike was not a runner, so I thought that’s not appropriate. What could we do to raise money somehow, to keep his name alive?  

We set out on a family fun day, because family was really very dear to Mike’s heart. We decided we’d do a family fun day where we brought families together and we decided we would raise money for a scholarship in his name and do it based on community service, because that’s a segment of the population of kids that goes unnoticed a lot. 

We award a scholarship every year to a kid in Foxboro who is very active in community service. We don’t really look at finances, because I don’t want to look at people’s finances. I don’t want to know that about people, especially people in a town where I was living, but we look at community service and we look at grades to the extent that we want to make sure it’s somebody who’s going to make it through at least their first year at school. We look more to see that they have a heart for community service. We look for a kid that, say in ten years, is going to be active in their community, and we raise the money through the family fun day. 

We’ve changed it a little bit now. This year we’re hoping to raise money to give it to one girl and one boy in the community. It will be the second Saturday of every September going forward. This year it happens to fall on September 11, but we thought if we did it the second Saturday of every September, people would know to expect it. We were going to stop doing it, but we’ve decided—I spoke in New York last September 11, and I spoke about somebody named Chris Mitchell, who after September 11 just started showing up and cutting my grass and did it for eight years, every week, and never took a penny. Every time I said to him, Chris, you’ve got to let me pay you, he would say, Don’t worry about it. It’s on YouTube, if you ever get curious, if you just put in Cindy McGinty. 

I spoke about him in New York and when he got back home he thought, I need to do something for Cindy, so he reorganized the Scholarship and Family Fun Day, and now it’s out on Facebook, under Foxboro Never Forgets, and they’ve re-instituted it. So we’re going to keep doing the McGinty Scholarship and Family Fun Day.

Heininger

Wow.

McGinty

I’m really just so pleased about it, because that was my one big thing about leaving Foxboro. Oh, and I thought about one more thing that I forgot to tell you about Senator Kennedy. When Daniel graduated from Hillside, we invited him to come and speak at his graduation, just figuring he probably can’t come, but I felt like he was part of Daniel’s graduation. And don’t you know, he came and spoke at the prize day.

Heininger

Wow.

McGinty

He couldn’t make it for graduation, because he had another commitment, but they have prize day the day before, and he came and spoke.

Heininger

Wow.

McGinty

Which is just amazing, because here it is, a little middle school in Marlborough, Massachusetts, and he came and spoke, and I was just so touched that he would make time to do that.

Heininger

Do you know what some of the things were that he did for some of the other 9/11 families, the private things?

McGinty

Oh gosh, yes. One of the families had a memorial to his wife on the Cape, and it got stolen, and he was going to have it replaced, but it was found before he could have it replaced. One of the other 9/11 families, she was honored at a banquet in New York, and I called him and he wrote her a letter. He’s showed up at many a fundraiser. He’s donated all kinds of things to auctions and raffles. One time, for Family Fun Day, he couldn’t get there and he was going to send his nephew. Like I said, there were people on the airplane who were killed, that he knew they weren’t terrorists, but they were accused of being terrorists. He has helped with kids who were sick. There’s a few of us. Usually he calls many of the family members on 9/11, there’s like a handful of us that he either calls or sends letters to. He’s shown up for many of the fundraising events that we have, like at the Boston Public Garden Memorial. He’s come to fundraising events for that. Many, many things like that, and usually they’re very quiet, so I’m sure there’s more.

I didn’t know this until afterwards; I was kind of mad about it. We did get some remains, and I had a burial. He called and asked if he could come and the funeral director told him no, it was private. Oh no. Because I would have told him yes.

Heininger

Of course, oh my.

McGinty

I know. I said, Margaret, what are you thinking?

Heininger

Oh, my.

McGinty

She didn’t tell me until afterwards.

Heininger

Oh, ouch, ouch.

McGinty

Yes, I know, that was a big ouch.

Heininger

Oh, my.

McGinty

We had had a few burials. The way the medical examiner’s officer did it, we had a memorial service and then about a month later I got remains. I don’t know what I was thinking. I thought we got all we were going to get, but we didn’t. Then we got more, so we cremated them, and we did just a small service, and she told him no, it was private. I was mortified. He’s come to some of the services for families. But he was so cool about it. He said, Oh no, I totally understand. But can you imagine? I said, Margaret, what are you thinking? He has been there for lots of families with things like that.

As I said, when I had trouble finding Mike’s discharge papers he found them, and then when we had the first ceremony, we didn’t get a full honor guard, so when we had the second one, I wanted a full honor guard, and don’t you know, the Navy couldn’t find his discharge papers again. Even though I had them, they still wouldn’t recognize the ones that I had, so they straightened them out again.

Heininger

Lots of unhelpful steps along the way.

McGinty

And Mike’s best friend growing up—Mike grew up in an Air Force family and he went to like 12 different schools in 12 years, and the last school he went to he ended up living with this guy and his family. He graduated from Bellevue High School in Nebraska, so he stayed close with this one guy, John Smith, who was in the Air Force. Less than a year after Mike died, John was killed in a car accident in Germany. He was in the Air Force.

I never was clear what happened, but the Air Force was not kind to John’s widow. I don’t know what happened; there was something goofy with it. After three or six months, they toss you off the base, they make you leave, but she wasn’t living on the base. She was living in this little town in Germany, but they were really kind of pushing her out. So she came back to the United States, but somehow there were problems with everything. I called Senator Kennedy’s office, and even though she was a resident of California, he helped her straighten it all out.

Heininger

There are lots of tales of that.

McGinty

Yes.

Heininger

He helps those who need it.

McGinty

Yes, he does. Absolutely.

Heininger

It sounds like you’ve had an extraordinary experience dealing with him, but it was also a very personal one.

McGinty

Yes.

Heininger

And that’s why I like so much doing interviews with families like yours who have had contact with him. This has been wonderful.

McGinty

Thanks.

Heininger

I really want to thank you.

This is one of the many interviews that comprise the Edward M. Kennedy Oral History. For more information about the Edward M. Kennedy Oral History, including links to all interviews, please click here.

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