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Thread: Gifts to make 9/11 loved ones proud

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    Gifts to make 9/11 loved ones proud

    Gifts to make 9/11 loved ones proud

    By PATRICE O'SHAUGHNESSY
    DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

    They lost loved ones in the World Trade Center catastrophe, but within months of the towering act of hate and evil, their sorrow shifted to the resolution to do something positive.

    In the name of their father, brother, son or friend, they decided to build something or help someone, to give to the sick, the poor, the hungry and the needy.

    Through 9/11 benefits, fund-raising and other contributions, they carried on with the fallen ones' endeavors, or were inspired by them to find a new purpose.

    Dennis McHugh
    A bridge to the future

    The wind-swept place on the edge of the Hudson River near the Tappan Zee Bridge was where Dennis McHugh enjoyed life: running along the water, attending nearby St. John's Church, sharing a quiet dinner with his wife, Una McHugh, at the Sidewalk Cafe.

    In April, builders are due to break ground in a parking lot there, the future site of a magnificent red brick building with a river view and stacks of books offering windows to other panoramas.

    The Dennis P. McHugh Piermont Public Library will honor the 34-year-old firefighter from Ladder 13 on the upper East Side who perished in the World Trade Center attack. A foundation set up by his family has pledged $500,000 toward the construction of the library and community center.

    "We had spent a lot of time at that spot, and I was reaching for something to make something good happen out of all this mess," Una McHugh said.

    Una McHugh, 38, is a reading specialist in the Nyack school district, and her husband loved books and instilled that love in his oldest daughter, Chloe, 8. The couple also had twins, Sophie and Joseph, 3.

    "I always went to the same library, and Dennis would hop around, go to all the libraries in the area with Chloe," Una McHugh said.

    Dennis McHugh had a career in financial services before he became a firefighter in 1998. His wife said that people were shocked that her husband had 30 credits toward his MBA.

    Her brother, Rob Hinchcliffe, said the foundation pledged $500,000 over several years, to be raised at various fund-raising events, with the McHugh-Hinchcliffe families making up the difference.

    The foundation will fund ongoing children's programs at the library, which will have an auditorium and cultural center, expanded children's section, updated computer equipment and a selection of volumes on local history and geography.

    Una McHugh said the project has helped her get through the pain of losing her husband. "To see the involvement of family and friends and community ... the support is comforting," she said.

    Kenneth Tietjen
    A tradition of giving

    Since he was a boy, Kenneth Tietjen had given to the less fortunate. His charity knew no season.

    At Christmastime, he'd buy bicycles for needy boys and girls in Monmouth County, N.J. In summers, he'd help out at the Special Olympics on the Jersey Shore. In between, he brought food to homeless shelters in Jersey City.

    So it was only fitting that the Port Authority police officer's family members would continue giving in his name. They bought wooden ramps so wheelchair users can easily traverse the sand to get near the water's edge on beaches at Sandy Hook. This past Christmas, they purchased 200 bikes for children.

    Tietjen was 31 when he died. He was last seen heading up a stairwell in the south tower after the second plane struck. He already had helped direct people to safety from the lobby of the flaming north tower.

    "We decided very early on that it was our responsibility to get up every day and make Kenny proud of us," said his sister, Laurie Tietjen.

    Kenneth Tietjen was not married and left no children. He had insurance, and the Twin Towers Fund for uniformed responders who died compensated his family. People from all over the world sent donations to the family.

    A woman sent a check for $2, and the gesture made Laurie Tietjen cry. "People were so good to us," she said. "None of us was financially dependent on him, and after we helped his girlfriend and her son, we wanted to use the money to help people."

    His remains were found two days before Christmas of 2001, giving more meaning to the yuletide tradition. The Tietjens bought 11 bicycles for children that year.

    The slain cop's love of the beach inspired his mother, Janice. She saw wheelchair-accessible boardwalks at Wildwood and came up with the idea to donate similar devices to Sandy Hook. Last June, two handicapped-accessible ramps were dedicated, thanks to the family's $5,000 gift to the National Park Service.

    In addition to relatives' own donations, they've raised $50,000 for good works in Kenneth Tietjen's name. "It's something we love to do," Laurie Tietjen said.

    Jack Fanning
    Realizing a dream

    The house on Long Island will officially be designated an "individual residential alternative," in the parlance of the state Office of Mental Health and Retardation, but the group home for six autistic youths will be affectionately called the Jack Fanning House, realizing the dream of a man who gave his life saving others.

    Jack Fanning and his wife, Maureen Fanning, were raising two sons with autism, Sean and Patrick. As Sean became a teenager, the couple grew concerned about how their boys would be cared for in the future. For six years, Maureen Fanning, 47, a registered nurse, had been trying with other Long Island families to raise money for a group home where autistic people could live through adulthood. There is a dearth of such places in the New York area, she said.

    In August 2001, Jack Fanning fantasized about winning the Powerball lottery. "If I win, we'll buy a group home and you'll run it," he told his wife.

    Three weeks later, he was gone. But his death would enable that off-hand wish to come true.

    Jack Fanning died in the lobby of the World Trade Center's south tower Sept. 11. The only trace of him was his crushed white battalion chief's helmet, found the following March.

    He was 54 years old, head of the Fire Department's hazardous materials unit and recognized as a national expert. He testified about the lack of domestic readiness for terrorist attacks in May 2001 before a U.S. Senate subcommittee. "He predicted his own death," Maureen Fanning said flatly.

    She explained it to Sean, then 13, with photos of his father and of the smoke-capped twin towers. "He screamed,

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    Laurie Tietjen at marker for Kenneth with (from left) Dave Newsham, Frank Aresta and Tom Johnson.

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    Maureen Fanning, widow of Jack Fanning, with son Patrick.

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