Just shy of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, another American Hero has fallen as a consequence of his exposure at Ground Zero. Kevin McQuade, my friend, brother Knight of Columbus, brother Holy Name Society member, father of two wonderful sons, and a devoted husband succumbed to esophageal cancer today at 8 A.M.
Kevin had been a member of the United States Coast Guard for a number of years before working as a crew member on the Staten Island Ferry. On that terrible day ten years ago, the Ferry carried thousands and thousands of Staten Islanders home to safety. The crew, without respirators, went back again and again to the Manhattan slip just a half-mile from the billowing toxic smoke from the fires that would burn out of control for three MONTHS! The next day, and on subsequent days, Kevin and the others would ferry supplies to Ground Zero, and carry them up.
They were covered in the fine dust and soot that was ubiquitous, and deadly.
Those of us who were molecular biologists knew damned well that these selfless men and women were signing their own death warrants, and we had a pretty good idea of how it would happen. I suspect that many of the 9/11 heros knew as much. It never deterred them. They fought for the privilege of “working the pile”.
Kevin was no different.
Forget every Hollywood stereotype you may have seen about New Yorkers. As a Brooklyn native, and having lived here my entire life, what the nation saw on 9/11 and its aftermath was the heart and soul of this city and her very best citizens.
Kevin typified the average New Yorker. He worked long, hard hours. He married a terrific girl and, with her, raised a family. He loved God and loved his Church. The McQuades were as regular as clockwork in their attendance at Mass, participation in the parish, and patriotic/civic mindedness.
Kevin was a man’s man, and raised two great sons. The oldest, Sean, was supposed to have started Franciscan University this Fall, but couldn’t leave his mom and dad with the end so near. Sean is also a pro-life lion and young man of gentle yet unbending principle, something he picked up from his parents.
During the 9/11 aftermath, Kevin and many other of our heros began “the cough”, that annoying tickle, the irritation that would grow over time. Without any other risk factors for esophageal cancer, Kevin was diagnosed a few years ago and had radical surgery, radiation and chemo, which helped him squeeze out a few more years with his family.
I cannot imagine a world without Kevin McQuade in it. His quiet strength and unfathomable depth of goodness will live on in his sons and in his widow, Anne. However, he leaves behind an unmistakeable imprint on our community, our Church, the Knights of Columbus, and on our hearts.
Having lost friends and college classmates in the Towers on 9/11, Kevin’s untimely passing forth from us bridges the decade since that terrible morning, and makes it all so fresh again for all of us blessed to know him, and who will mourn him gone.
Please pray for Anne and the boys, and for the many other heros and their families who are now struggling with disability and impending death because of their heroic selflessness a decade ago.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let Perpetual Light shine upon him. May he rest in peace, Amen.