Long Island native remembers uncle on 9/11

Abigail Simpson

Ten years have passed since terrorists killed Abby Simpson’s uncle.

For the Long Island native, the events of 9/11 reshaped her family and changed the New York City skyline of her childhood.

The date of Sept. 11 has been a difficult one to get through for the past decade, Simpson said Wednesday from her Colorado Mesa University office. It has been particularly tough on her mother, Maureen Simpson, whose youngest brother was among the more than 2,600 who died in the Twin Towers area.

The added significance of today, considering it’s the 10th anniversary of 9/11, means the countless stories of those who died and those who survived will be difficult to escape.

Simpson plans to call her mother. They may talk about Patrick McGuire, the relative they lost, but maybe not.

When McGuire died in the South Tower, he was 40 years old and left behind a wife and four children. The eldest son is now in college at Fordham University in New York City.

“They are doing well,” Simpson said of her cousins.

The events of 9/11 are a little fuzzy for Simpson, now 24. She remembers some things vividly. Other things she has forgotten.

“You don’t understand how it affects people,” she said with hints of a Long Island accent.

Her memories of 9/11 begin at approximately 8:45 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, when she and her twin sister, Emily, were sitting in a freshman earth science class at Kings Park High School, where their mother was a school nurse.

The loudspeaker said something about a Code Red effective immediately. The Long Island school’s lights went out. All blinds were drawn. Students were ordered away from windows and doors.

The loudspeaker went on to say something about an airplane and the World Trade Center, which was about 60 minutes from Simpson’s school.

There were minimal details at that point, and there were no cell phones. Simpson was barred from leaving the room to flee to the safety of her mother’s office — and arms.

She just waited.

She knew her uncle worked in the South Tower, but apparently that wasn’t hit. However, her father usually drove into New York City on Tuesday mornings to visit clients. He was probably in the city. How was he?

At 9:03 a.m., the South Tower was struck. Uncle Patrick worked somewhere between the 80th and 89th floors.

“I don’t remember the rest of the day,” Simpson said.

Eventually, she and her twin sister were allowed to see their mother, who confirmed Simpson’s father was fine, but there was no word from Uncle Patrick.

The family waited. And waited.

“For days, we sat in front of the TV, waiting to hear,” Simpson said.

Finally, on Saturday, Sept. 15, the family drove to Uncle Patrick’s New Jersey home to see his family. While there, a law enforcement official arrived to notify the family that Patrick’s body had been found in the South Tower rubble.

It was a closed-casket funeral.

“The funeral was packed,” Simpson said.

Although Simpson moved to Grand Junction in January to coach the university’s women’s lacrosse team and sincerely “loves it” in Western Colorado, she’ll always be a New Yorker.

Most of her immediate family is still in the Long Island area. She estimated half the people in her high school either lost a family friend or relative in 9/11 or knew someone who did.

One thing the native New Yorker has never done is visit ground zero. “It would be too hard,” she said.

Ten years after 9/11, Simpson understands people have moved on. She even has heard jokes about the terrorist attack. They will never be funny.

“It will always be a day,” Simpson said. “Always.”


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