Ten years ago, when Katie McDonnell’s birthday fell on Father’s Day, officers from NYPD, ESU Truck 1 surprised her with a Disney princess party. They closed off the street and brought in the mounted unit for horse rides. “There weren’t any kids,” Katie remembers, “just my family and the officers,” officers who have become almost an extension of Katie’s family. Katie’s father, Brian McDonnell, also an officer with ESU Truck 1, was killed responding to the terrorist attacks on September, 11, 2001. He was last seen entering the South Tower prior to the collapse. His body was not recovered.
This month, Katie McDonnell turns 19, and just as she has every year since her Disney princess party, she’ll be remembered on her birthday by the officers from NYPD’s ESU Truck 1. Brian’s colleagues from the NYPD have been there for key moments in Katie’s life ever since his death on 9/11. One of his fellow officers dressed up in his denim shirt and cowboy hat and took Katie to her Girl Scout hoedown.
They came to her Sweet Sixteen, high school graduation party and even gave Katie her first guitar. As Katie puts it, the NYPD “really stepped up” for her, which is something she wants to talk about as a volunteer walking tour guide for the Tribute Center. Katie and her mom, Maggie McDonnell-Tiberio, are two of the newest people to volunteer for Tribute’s walking tour program at the 9/11 Memorial; all volunteers in the program have deep, personal connections to the events of September 11th. Tribute’s tours recently transitioned to the 9/11 Memorial, and that sense of place is what encouraged Maggie to join the program. “Most people go to the Memorial and think only of that day, of death and destruction,” she says. “I want people to know what happened on September 11th was only one day of Brian’s life. I want people to know Brian the father, the husband, the son, the brother, the friend.” For Katie, now a sophomore at NYU, volunteering for Tribute is about helping others understand the enduring aftermath of the tragedy. “Kids my age don’t remember 9/11 that much,” she explains. “What happened on September 11th wasn’t just something that happened to my parents’ generation, the next generation was affected by 9/11.”
Katie is not only one of Tribute’s newest volunteers, at 19, she’s also one of our youngest. Dina LaFond, who lost her daughter on September 11th, has been a Tribute volunteer since 2006, a year after the program started. Although you’d never know it from her demeanor, Dina is proud to be Tribute’s most “senior, senior” volunteer. There is a great diversity of volunteers in Tribute’s walking tour program that reflects the profound impact 9/11 had on different generations and constituent groups.
To find out more about Tribute’s volunteer program, please contact:
Nancy Gamerman, 212-422-3520 x112 or firstname.lastname@example.org.