It's been 11 years this Tuesday since Foxborough resident Mike McGinty was tragically taken from his family and community during the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Since that tragic day, however, McGinty's memory has lived on in community spirit, pride and volunteerism, highlighted by the event, McGinty Family Fun Day, which was held this past Saturday on Foxboro Common.
And with the sun shining brightly on a day that many meterologists said would rain, McGinty's wife, Cindy, knew her husband had something to do with the favorable change in forecast.
"I asked how we got this great [weather Saturday] and [Cindy] said, ‘this is Mike ... he did this for sure,’" said Fox 25 news anchor Maria Stephanos, a Foxborough resident and guest speaker at Saturday's event.
Stephanos said she met Cindy 11 years ago when her TV news station asked her to knock on Cindy's door because she had just lost her husband from the attacks on 9/11.
"Worst part of the job ever is to knock on someone’s door who has lost," Stephanos said.
However, it was a blessing in disguise for both Stephanos and Cindy McGinty.
"The best person who you could have ever knocked on the door was this lady right here, [Cindy McGinty]," Stephanos said. "I knocked on her door. She had lost her husband and had two little kids herself. She opened that door, literally, to her life [for me]."
Cindy and Stephanos have been friends to this day.
"That's a beautiful thing for me," Stephanos said. "She let me in, she looked at me and said, ‘I have no idea what I’m going to do.’ And boy, did she figure it out all these years later."
Cindy "figured it out" with the help of the community group, Foxboro Never Forgets, founded by Christ Mitchell and his wife, Paula, who organize and sponsor the McGinty Family Fun Day.
Saturday's event, which is run by volunteeres, drew hundreds to Foxboro Common for an afternoon of family fun and celebration as Foxborough remembered the life of Mike McGinty and showed support for his family.
Several groups and businesses again donated their time, talent and money this year to help a great cause.
Proceeds raised from McGinty Family Fun Day will go towards the McGinty Scholarship Foundation, which is named in loving memory of Mike McGinty. The foundation awards two $2,500 scholarships each year to college-bound Foxborough residents ... something that remains very important to Cindy and her family.
"I hope that in some small way that Family Fun Day brings this community together and we are able to help high school students go to college and recognize a part of the community that often goes unrecognized and that’s high school community service," Cindy McGinty said. "I want to inspire students so that some day, maybe 10 years from now, they will be active in their community."
Stephanos believes Cindy has done just that.
"She’s inspiring, motivating and changing people’s lives," Stephanos said of Cindy. "[Let's make] sure that [Saturday] is the day we remember her husband, Mike, but in this way. Not where we stand here and weep, not where we forget about him but where we come together as a community."
Because it was this community, 11 years ago, that kept Cindy standing in the darkest and most tragic of circumstances.
"God knew something was going to happen to me and He knew I was going to need a community to take care of me and you all sure did that," Cindy said. "Flash forward how many years and here I stand and you are all still taking care of my family and remembering all of us and coming together. That means a lot to us. I often think that’s why I’m still standing today ... because of Foxborough and how you all stood together and helped my family."
Cindy told the crowd that it was Foxboro Common that initially attracted her and Mike to Foxborough – a place she likes to revisit on Family Fun Day to remember her husband and see the community that means so much to her.
"I’m glad that we are all together and I’m glad that I’m still standing, I’m glad that my friends have had the vision to keep this going and I’m so happy for all the people here. .... Mike is surely smiling on all of us ... let’s have some fun," Cindy said.
And fun is exactly what the community had Saturday. There were three bands that performed Saturday – 36 Red, Odyssey and the Brass Daddies and Blood Sweat & Swing and food was prepared by nearby Loewen’s Deli.
Other attractions on the day included: a balloon man, moon walks and an inflatable obstacle course, games, crafts, face painting and tattoos, cookie decorating, Karate demonstration by Personal Best students and raffle prizes, including a signed football by New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.
It was a community event to remember and celebrate the life of Mike McGinty through children's laughter and family fun. Stephanos said events like these make Foxborough "home."
"This is home right here for us and this is Foxborough and Foxborough never forgets," said Stephanos.