Nearly 3,000 American families lost a loved one on September 11th. Some keep their memories alive by sharing stories and remembering the happy times they shared.
WMAR-2 News spoke with the family of a Towson man who died in the attack at the World Trade Center in New York City. They shared why they miss him so much.
Even from a young age, Daniel McNeal's family said he always left an impression on everyone he met.
His mother Kitty McNeal recalled an encounter a neighbor once told her about Daniel as a boy.
“And the lady said to me, ‘do you know the first person I met in this neighborhood was Danny McNeal. He and the dog came over, and he said I just want to welcome you to the neighborhood.’ And she said he was about ten years old, and she said she just looked at him and said ‘excuse me’,” McNeal said.
Daniel's sister Kathleen Sheeler remembers her brother's unique personality and one time a golf ball made an impression on him.
“He took a ball to the head and instead of taking care of himself he went back and apologized to the golfers for having to interrupt their game,” Sheeler said.
Daniel's love of golf remains part of his legacy at his alma mater, Loyola Blakefield.
“His class, the class of 1990, they started a golf tournament, and we had it at the Country Club of Maryland a number of years. And that’s how we started, how we built up the scholarship fund,” McNeal said.
It's a scholarship fund for students not only in Daniel McNeal's name but for a student who embodies his spirit.
“They have to get an education. They have to be interested in the school. They have to be involved. And, they have to stand out,” McNeal said.
Daniel McNeal was an ambitious young man who after Loyola Blakefield, went on to Boston College, and with an MBA from georgetown university in hand, Daniel set his sights on New York City and working on Wall Street.
“He wanted to go to New York very badly, but when he told me it was in the World Trade Center, I said Dan, I don’t like that building. I had a feeling about it. And he said mom, there’s nothing wrong with it. I said but they tried to get it once, I feel like something’s going to happen,” McNeal said.
“So, I was very upset when he told me he was going to the World Trade Center, but that’s exactly what happened,” McNeal added.
The morning of September 11th, 2001, Kathleen was at work and her dad, Mike McNeal was in hospice.
“My brother called dad at Gilcrest. He was on the phone with my father, and my father watched on live television as the plane hit his tower and he lost connection,” Sheeler said.
“The phone rang and Mike said Kitty, turn the TV on…that’s when I saw…that’s all I can say,” McNeal said.
“But Danny had called me before. The phone had rang while I was out walking the dog. When I answered the phone after I saw the picture, he was telling me he was going to get out of the towers and he would call me when he got out,” McNeal added.
After the towers fell, the family stayed by Mike McNeal's bedside for days holding out hope.
“Probably it was three days later, that we got word that he was found,” Sheeler said.
“It was almost a miracle because so few families got loved ones back. We had closure,” Sheeler added.
One week later, the family held Daniel's funeral.
“People came from all over for the funeral, they came from B.C., they came from Boston, they came from Georgetown, and the Loyola people were all here,” McNeal said.
Three weeks after 9/11, the family gathered once again. This time, it was for Kathleen's wedding. Since Kathleen's dad was in the hospital, her brother was supposed to be the one to walk her down the aisle.
“I think for one day we were able to forget the events of 9/11, so it was kind of a celebration after the sorrow. I just wished he were there to walk me down the aisle,” Sheeler said.
During the holidays that year, the family suffered another loss with the death of Mike McNeal. He was buried next to Daniel on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Day brought the family something to celebrate.
“Christmas Day, we found out I was pregnant. Danny was born August 20th, of 2002, named after Daniel and Michael, my brother and my father,” Sheeler said.
Daniel McNeal was a brother, a son and someone who will forever hold a place in the hearts and minds of this close-knit family.
“The fact that this year being 20 years, it’s just hard to realize that how much our life, we’ve gone on, and my brother will always remain a 29-year-old business man,” Sheeler said.