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Family of Gary Bird, the only Arizonan 9/11 victim, shares grieving process

(Bird Family Photo)

PHOENIX — The family of Gary Bird, the only Arizonan 9/11 victim, has come a long way in healing since the attacks 18 years ago.

His wife and son spoke to KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James & Pamela Hughes Show on Wednesday.

Donna Killoughey Bird was at home in Tempe while Gary was at the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, to complete orientation for a new job.

“I was in the bathroom … and I first heard the words from the news broadcast,” she said.

Donna said she still has the support of people who rushed to her house and helped her stay strong after news of the terrorist attacks spread.

“This morning I went to mass, we do that every year at 8 o’clock, and the same group of people are there to comfort us,” she said.

Donna said the uncertainty of what was happening and how many people were killed complicated the grieving process.

“It was 7-10 days we were hopeful that he would come out of the rubble,” Donna said.

“And then my pastor called and said, ‘Are you all ready to recognize that he’s probably not coming back?’ So that was the next stage in the grief, where you had to admit that he wasn’t coming back.”

Andrew Bird, who was 13 at the time of his father’s death, said he experienced a lot of anger and loneliness.

“For roughly 10 years after this happened, I was very introverted. I was very afraid to share that pain with others,” he said.

“But … we all share this pain, and whoever remembers that day shares that pain in some way, shape or form.”

Last month, the mother and son spent two days together in New York City to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

“My cousin … went there and she walked in and saw Gary’s photo, and she started weeping,” Donna said.

“So I can only say that we were prepared, we were ready, and we had each other.”

Bruce St. James & Pamela Hughes

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