A reassuring call -- then doubts, fears

With one member missing, a family in Towson waits

Terrorism Strikes American

Maryland

September 14, 2001|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

He is scheduled to walk his sister down the aisle at her wedding in two weeks, in place of his ailing father.

He has dreamed of becoming a Georgetown University professor.

Tuesday, before he left his office on the 104th floor of Two World Trade Center, one of the twin towers in New York, Daniel McNeal called his mother in Towson to let her know he was OK.

"The crash was over in tower one," McNeal said to the answering machine after a plane hit that building. "I'm going to get the heck out of Dodge in a few minutes."

He next called his father, Michael, who has pulmonary problems and is at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care in Towson. McNeal told his father not to worry.

Moments after the conversation, his father watched on television as the second plane crashed into the tower where his son works.

Friends and relatives kept a vigil yesterday in Towson for the 29-year-old Loyola Blakefield High School graduate, who is among the missing in Tuesday's collapse of the World Trade Center.

McNeal is a financial analyst for Sandler O'Neill, an investment banking firm, and lives in New Jersey. After graduating from Loyola Blakefield, he attended Boston College, where he studied finance. He later earned a master's degree in business administration from Georgetown.

"We're trying to stay strong," his sister, Kathleen, said yesterday as friends and family phoned and visited. "We're hearing news every hour, though it's not the news we want to hear."

At Loyola Blakefield yesterday, a Mass was offered for McNeal, who was class president in 1990 and was active in school alumni activities.

"He was a real bright light in this school, and people remembered him," said the Rev. Jack Dennis. "I heard about him so many times before I met him. He was outgoing and popular."

"It's like you can't believe it happened," said Kathleen "Kitty" McNeal, his mother. "We all just idolize him."

Rumors early yesterday that five firefighters had been found alive underneath the rubble buoyed the McNeal household on Ridervale Road.

"We're just sitting here waiting," Kitty McNeal said. "Every time the phone rings, our hearts just skip a beat."

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