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From Tragedy to Triumph: Remembering 9/11 at DSU Virtual Scholar Series

by Paige Hawk Sep 14, 2021
DeSales Scholars Series: From Tragedy to Triumph - Stories of 9/11 - In Remembrance of the 20th Anniversary

On the morning of September 11, 2001, no one knew the tragedy that would unfold, or how it would test the strength of our country and its people. 

In remembrance of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, members of the DSU community came together during a moving Virtual Scholar Series to share how their lives were shaped by the tragedy, and to remember those who were killed during the attacks, including alumnus Daniel Gallagher ’00.

At the beginning of the program, Payton Lynch ’15, author of Rise from the Ashes, a book about how surviving children of 9/11 “found triumph from tragedy,” discussed how she and her husband, Jonathan, are currently struggling with infertility. It is this struggle that led to the epiphany that her husband is more resilient than she is. 

“At first, I was really mad…I just wanted him to crawl into that angry, sad hole with me and he just wasn’t having it because he knew that we could get through this–that this was not the end of our story,” Lynch said. 

The reason for this resiliency, she decided, was Jonathan’s experience as a child who lost his father, Robert Henry Lynch Jr., during 9/11. 

According to Jonathan, “My dad was a hero of 9/11. Unfortunately, he was not able to save himself that day, but he was able to save a lot of people.” While his father wasn’t an emergency responder by profession, he received the 9/11 Heroes Medal of Valor for helping evacuate individuals from the World Trade Center. 

After digging deeper into her husband’s story, Lynch reached out to other surviving children of 9/11, as well as a counselor experienced with helping individuals cope with tragedy. She found that, like her husband, many surviving children of 9/11 were more resilient because of the trauma they’d experienced. 

After compiling these stories and the wisdom she gleamed from them, Rise from the Ashes was born. Throughout the evening, Lynch and Gallagher’s loved ones shared how they find strength when life tests them.

Lynch said, “Family and friends seem to be the cornerstones that get us through challenging times.”

Piggybacking on that, Sean Gallagher, Daniel’s brother, said, “I drew a lot of inspiration to keep going from my mother who had been handed not one but two tragedies before she turned 50–she lost her husband and her son. To watch her go through the process and demonstrate strength and resiliency, and her ability to go on inspired me. If she can do it, I’ve got to do it.”

Family and friends of Daniel Gallagher described him as being intelligent, funny, and inclusive of everybody. Tahereh Alavi Hojjat, Ph.D., professor and chair of economics, said, “I think Dan’s memories will always be alive on campus. He was so special to friends and faculty…he will always be with us because of all those sweet memories, and all those sweet laughs. He was a happy camper…Hopefully we will all try to be as happy as Dan was.”

Although Gallagher’s life was cut short, his loved ones note that he achieved his dreams and had a significant impact on others. His legacy continues, not only through memories, but through the Daniel J. Gallagher Memorial Fund, which supports students who need financial aid while attending DeSales.