Song captures a fallen hero

Odenton woman records CD about brother-in-law who died on Sept. 11

September 10, 2006|By Nia-Malika Henderson | Nia-Malika Henderson,Sun Reporter

The year after New York City firefighter Terence A. McShane died at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, Christine Kellar decided to write a song about her brother-in-law. The lyrics came in bursts over about three weeks, prompted by memories of McShane's smile, his easygoing manner and his dedication to his family.

In New York one evening in 2002, during an impromptu family sing-along, Kellar put the words to music, but she said she wasn't ready to do much of anything else with her song.

Four years later, Kellar and her family, were ready to celebrate McShane in song and have recorded "Terence McShane," a memorial song with a bluegrass beat that is available on CD.

"I kind of felt, like on a personal level, life gave all of us September 11 to one degree or another, and each of us has a chance to respond," said Kellar of Odenton. "This is how I chose to do it and with the five-year anniversary it was more on my mind. To be remembered in song is a very special way to be remembered."

McShane, who was 37,was among the first group of firefighters to respond that Tuesday morning. All seven members of his company, Ladder Company 101 of Red Hook, Brooklyn, died in the attacks.

McShane, a husband and father of three, joined the Fire Department of New York in 1999. Before that, he served for 12 years in the New York Police Department, attaining the rank of sergeant.

Two thousand people attended McShane's funeral, which was held at Overlook Beach in Babylon, N.Y., where he spent his summers as a lifeguard and where he met his wife, Cathy. The family is from Long Island.

Proceeds from the CD's sales on the Internet will go to the New York Firefighters Burn Center Foundation and the Nature Conservancy. But the benefits of bringing her family together and recording the song outweigh any sales, said Kellar, a Comcast employee who also writes children's songs.

"My approach has been: Work with love and see what happens," Kellar said. "My sister likes the song a lot, and my nephews like the song. I've done my best in expressing what I feel and offering what I can to remember Terence."

Over two nights in late June, Kellar and other family members gathered in a studio in Manhattan to record the song, titled "Terence McShane." Initially, Kellar was nervous and thought it would be an "emotionally combustible" situation, she said. Instead, it turned out to be an upbeat experience, much like the song.

"It's not a somber song," Kellar said. "It's kind of a pub song, a raise a glass to Terence kind of song." It captures the man, Kellar said.

The song has a hopeful and peaceful tone. With 12-year-old Aidan McShane on electric bass and members of the group Too Blue playing backup, Kellar sings of a man who was "brave and true," and who spent his life watching out for others.

Kellar said her brother-in-law was a man of faith "who had an inner calm and little fear."

"It's hard to know what he might have been thinking when he walked into that inferno," Kellar said, her eyes tearing up. "But he probably would have walked in there in a lot better shape than a lot of people might have."

Kellar said she has been listening to the song in her car and in her house quite a bit. The part that always chokes her up is a reference to her sister, Catherine, and her three nephews:

I remember your grin, and how you loved your sweet Catherine, and your three little sons, your fine, fine sons.

"The lyrics are personal but I wanted the song to be one that anyone who knew Terence could sing wholeheartedly and one that other people could identify with and get a glimpse of him through song," Kellar said. "Wherever he showed up, people were glad he showed up."

Kellar said her stepson sings along in the car when the song plays and that he told her that though he never met Terence McShane, he wishes he had.

"These are the heroes of our time, the people we should be singing songs about," Kellar said. "I hope a hundred years from now, people are still singing songs about them."


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