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Write what should not be forgotten - Isabel Allande

Month: September 2016

9/11

Telling the stories of our family has taught me that it is important to tell the stories of our present also. Hopefully someday someone else will come looking for our stories.

September 11, 2001 started out like any other day, until it wasn’t.  It was my mom and dad’s wedding anniversary and even though my dad was gone we still celebrated it.  It was also the 1yr anniversary of finding out that our first baby was on the way.  

I got up that morning and did the laundry, the dryer had stopped working a couple of days earlier. With a 3 1/2 month old there was a lot of laundry.  My husband, Jason had gone out of town for training for his job.  I had a basket of wet laundry and was headed out to hang it on the line when the phone rang.

It was my sister calling to say that something was going on in NYC and I better turn on the TV.  Jason was in lower Manhattan that morning, specifically he was on the 61st floor of the South Tower.  I turned on the TV just in time to see his tower being hit.  At the time I only knew he was on the 61st floor but I wasn’t sure which tower.  We live almost 300 miles from NYC and he was supposed to be there for 3 weeks of training with Morgan Stanley, it was his 3rd day in the city.

My sister knew he was in NY but didn’t’ realize he was in the WTC, immediately said she was on her way over.  I called his regular office in Buffalo, I will never forget the tone of the person I spoke too.  She just kept saying they didn’t know anything and they had been trying to call the switchboard for information, and she kept saying she was sorry.

There were a lot of phone calls for the next little while – I called his mom, I called my office to say I wouldn’t be in – they hadn’t heard yet. Then I called my mom.  I held it together pretty well until I heard her voice and then I fell apart. She said she was on her way.  

It is is such silly details that we remember during crisis. I remember holding the baby who was by now crying right along with me trying to decide what to wear.  I mean really, what is the appropriate outfit for such a situation? I have no idea what I actually put on.  My sister arrived and was followed by my neighbor from across the street.  She had been watching things unfold on tv and kept looking at our house and trying to convince herself Jason wasn’t in THOSE buildings.  When she saw my sister, she knew he was.  

Before long, the house was filled with people. The thing I remember most were the telephones.    My neighbor had her cell and her cordless, my mom (who lived next door) had her cell and cordless and the phones were constantly ringing.  As the news spread, the calls kept coming.  I started carrying our cordless phone around because I couldn’t distinguish all the ringtones.  My neighbor took over caring for Baby James, she made a bottle and got him dressed.  I just couldn’t function, I just kept thinking – how could I ever tell him about his dad, how could I teach him to play hockey, throw a spiral, be a good man?

They kept telling me not to watch the tv, but I thought maybe I would see him.  The absolute lowest moment came when the South Tower came down, by now I knew that is where he was and I thought if he is trying to get out there is no way…

His class had just stopped for a break and all the smokers headed down to have a cigarette outside.  Jason was standing and looking out over the river, he could see the Statue of Liberty.  When the North Tower was hit they heard an explosion and he saw paper and broken glass in the air.  They thought something internal had caused a fire.  Morgan Stanley had a good evacuation plan in place. After the 1993 bombings they came up with their own plans.  They had people on each floor  who told them which stairs to go down and that no matter what they heard, they were not to come back into the building.

So they started walking, still having no idea what happened, they heard the announcements telling them that the South Tower was secure and to back to their offices, he saw people turn around.  He saw  the firemen on their way up the stairs. He and another person helped a woman who was getting too tired to walk, they carried her heels and and her bag for her.  When he was at about the 40th floor his tower was hit.  The lights went out and the building started to shake, he said a prayer for James and I and then just kept going.

When he finally got outside he stood and looked at the devastation. He will never tell me all that he saw that day.  He saw unspeakable things. As he stood there trying to figure out what was happening, he heard a rumbling.  He didn’t know what it was but knew it wasn’t good. He was about a block away when the Tower started to come down.  He started to run and was one of the people covered in ash.  He had a very small burn on his hand but was otherwise unhurt.

The phone I was holding rang a little before 10:30 and his number was on the screen.  I didn’t say anything to anyone and answered it.  In the most calm, casual voice, my sweet husband said “Hi Honey, I thought you might have the TV on.”  It was literally the only call he was able to get through while he was in Manhattan.  The scene that unfolded in my living room is something I will never forget as long as I live.  Our mother’s hugging each other and everyone was crying.  It was the most joyful, devastating moment I have ever been a part of.  To be to happy amongst so much destruction was haunting.

Jason literally had NO idea what had hit him.  He asked me if I knew what had happened, that he had heard something about an airplane on his way down the stairs.  He was standing in the middle of it and didn’t know what was happening.  We only spoke for a few minutes and he was trying to figure out where he was and how to get to his hotel.

I was a travel agent at the time and called my office.  They booked car rentals at all the major airports for him. The next day he was finally able to get to Newark and get a car, he brought several people from our area with him and dropped them off along the way.

We had a gathering at our house on the Friday night after.  I think almost everyone we knew was there.  I just remember the amazing feeling of love in the house that night, everyone was still reeling and it was honest and raw. No one was afraid to say “I love you”. I can remember one neighbor saying it in a way it made her think of “It’s a Wonderful Life”

For the first few years he was busy trying to convince everyone he was fine, he would answer questions about it but would never, ever bring it up.  On about the 5th anniversary he finally started talking about it.  The 10th anniversary was probably the hardest. Our 3rd son had just been born after a tough pregnancy  and scary delivery.  We went to a 9/11 exhibit.  It was tough to see and it was the first time our older boys really started to understand.  They had a lot of questions. Jimmy obviously didn’t have any memory of the day, for Thomas and Sean it will only ever be a story.

There have been a lot of bumps in the road in the days and years since that Tuesday morning.  He isn’t the same person who walked into the South Tower that morning, but really none of us are. There has also been so much joy and so many milestones that we have shared together.  Baby James is now 15 and a pretty good hockey player, as is his brother Thomas, and we have Sean, our sweet 5yr old.  His due date was Sept. 11, he came earlier than that and has taught us to savor those sweet early years all over again. There is not a day that goes by that we don’t give thanks.  Life isn’t perfect, it is messy and busy and pretty amazing.

Barney McGee

bernard-mcgee-headstone

 

Bernard “Barney” McGee was born the second son of William and Margery McConnell about 1831.  He was born in Ireland. According to his headstone he was a native of County Donegal. Bernard came to the United states in April of 1841. He arrived in New York with his mother, brothers and sisters aboard the Stephen Whitney, sailing from Liverpool.

There is some documentation that they lived in Lockport, NY for a while before settling Perry, NY. Barney married a Maria Fitzgerald and they made their life on a farm in nearby Covington, NY. In 1860 they were listed on the census for Covington, their real estate was worth $1900.  They had 2 daughters born between 1860 and 1864, Nellie (maybe Ellen) was born in 1862, Mary “Mattie” was born in November 1863.*

Barney died on December 10, 1864 he was only 33yrs old.  I haven’t been able to find out what he died from.  The odd thing is that he is buried a few towns over, in Batavia, NY.  There were other Catholic Churches in the area and I don’t know why he was buried there.  It looks like his mother, Margery is also buried there.  I am working on finding out if more the family are buried there.

I was able to track down the Probate records for Bernard that include an inventory of his possessions.  It is one of the more interesting things I have come across!  It is tough to read but it looks like his wife Maria was Executrix of the will, his brother William was also mentioned as a witness.  Reading through the things he owned and what they were worth is fascinating. Some of the highlights include a grey mare and a bay mare each worth $125, a lumber wagon $35, a Democrat buggy (see picture) $10, a lumber sleigh $6, 7 barrels $7, stone ware, a wooden bowl .35, 100lbs pork $14, and 4 forks(!) $1.25.  There was a whole host of farm equipment and several animals also, sheep, turkeys, geese, swine, and a heifer.  They had both a cook stove and a parlor stove, a table with 6 chairs and a settee.   It is an amazing glimpse into a simple farm in 1864.  

Democrat buggy

In 1870 Maria was still living on the farm, now with her brother Morris and the girls.  She did eventually remarry  to a Dennis Herrington, probably somewhere around 1876. She and Dennis show up on the 1880, 1900, and 1910 census records living in Warsaw. According to the 1910 census she had 3 children but only 2 were living at that time.* Nellie was 47yrs old and living with her mother and step-father.  Mattie’s daughter Helen Donahue is also listed as living at the residence.  I lose Maria by 1920 and Dennis may have remarried. He shows up in 1920 married to a Catherine, living on the same street that he and Maria lived on.

Both Mattie and Nellie were involved in several organizations in Warsaw, NY.  There are many mentions of their comings and goings around town.Mattie McGee married William Donahue and Helen was their only child. On the 1900 Census I found both  Nellie and Mattie listed at being servants for the Beardslee family in Warsaw. According to the poem written by Angie McGee that was previously posted, Nellie was a great cook.  Sounds like Nellie did the cooking and Mattie took care of the house. Mattie is listed at Mary Donahue and as a widow.  She had 1 living child (Helen). In 1910 Nellie and Helen are living with Maria, by 1920 Nellie and Mary are again listed as living with the Beardslee family. Mattie died in 1939 and is buried at St. Michael’s Cemetery. Nellie never married she died in 1948, she was survived by her niece Helen and a great nephew, William Bracht. Nellie is buried at St Michael’s also.

 

(n.d.). Retrieved September 3, 2016, from http://www.lemen.com/imageDemocrat1.html

*Addendum 10/13/16  Barney and Maria’s had 3 daughters. Their first daughter, Alice was born in 1861 and died in  1864. She is buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery Batavia, NY with her father and her Grandparents. Alice died on October 9, Grandmother Margery on October 15, and Barney on December 10.

In my Own Backyard

The McGee’s have proven to be very difficult to to research. In fact I had been working on them more than a year ago and was so frustrated I walked away for a little while.  Now that we are planning a trip to Ireland I decided to give it another go.  They have been far more cooperative this time around!  Thanks in large part to Ancestry DNA and my new found McGee cousins several key pieces of the puzzle fell into place.  In fact I discovered yet another new cousin this week – she works for the church in Warsaw where so many of our McGee’s are buried. My plan is to write biographies for the 1st generation of McGee’s and their families.  Our common ancestors are William and Margery McConnell McGee. They came to the US in the early 1840’s with their children.  I have put together a listing of their children and families and that is what I am working from.

One of my biggest mysteries has been what happened to William and Margery.  I know they were born in the early 1800’s in Ireland. All signs point to the family coming from Northern Ireland – possibly Donegal.  I have found Margery and the children on a Ship’s manifest arriving in 1841.  Still trying to figure out when William came over – probably earlier.  However I haven’t been able to find out when they died or where they were buried.  Believe me when I say that I have looked really hard for that information..I have scoured as much information from Wyoming County, NY as possible.  I have been to numerous cemeteries, contacted churches, and gone to the County Historian’s office and found nothing.  Another lingering mystery was their son Bernard. I kept finding information about a Bernard McGee buried in my hometown of Batavia. The dates were not quite right and Batavia is about 40 miles away from where he lived.  That is a significant distance in the 1860’s.  

 

So this week my niece I and went to St Joseph’s Cemetery in Batavia (Genesee Co).  If I said that she was a willing participant that wouldn’t exactly be true!  Glad she gave in and came along because we had a blast.  We found Bernard’s grave and the dates that were listed on line were wrong and the actual dates on the headstone fit a whole lot better!  The really big surprise is that after poking around for a while we discovered a headstone right in front of Bernard’s that said William McGee! Turns out that it isn’t William’s headstone but his wife Margery.  I don’t even want to tell you how long it took us to figure that out!!! In our defense the stone is faded.  Next week I will contact the church and hopefully get some more information.  There are a few open spaces right around them, hoping that I will have finally discovered William.  We still don’t know why they are buried so far away from where they lived. This mystery that has been so frustrating was solved in my own backyard!
William McGee(1803 ish) married Margery McConnell (1803 ish-1864) both born in Ireland

Children:

  1. John McGee (1827-1905)
  2. Bernard McGee (1931-1864)
  3. Michael McGee (1832-1894)
  4. Ellen McGee (1834-?)
  5. William McGee (1837-1906)
  6. Nancy McGee (1842-?)

 

1.John McGee m. Catherine Gill (1830-1908)

Children: William (1856-1926) m. Martha Flynn *my branch

                    Catherine McGee O’Melia (1858-1919)

                     Mary McGee (1860-1919)

                     Ella McGee Derrick (1862-1897)

                      John B McGee (1863-1932) m. Mary Agnes McGinn and Mary Ellen Murphy

 

2. Bernard McGee m. Maria Fitzgerald (1832-?)

    Children: Mattie McGee m. William Donahue

                        Nellie McGee (1862-1948)

 

3.Michael McGee m. Mary (1840-1911)

   Children: Mary Angela McGee “Angie” (1866-1942)

                       George McGee (1870-1939) m. Ida Lemmon

                       Charles McGee (1873-1904)

4.  Ellen McGee (1834-?)

5. William McGee m. Sara Malone (1845-1905)

      Children: Mary E McGee (1869-1912) m Edward Dillon

                         Martha McGee (1873-?) m. James Simon

                         William G McGee (1876-1933) m. Maude Crawford

  1. Nancy McGee (1842-?)

 

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