9/11 20 years later: Mom recalls son killed in WTC; Canty family turned grief into support for community

Kay Canty talks about 911 and her son, Michael Canty, who was killed while working at the World Trade Center
Kay Canty talks about 911 and her son, Michael Canty, who was killed while working at the World Trade Center

Kay Canty has found times of peace — and spiritual reflection — during the past 20 years.

One moment in time stands out: Canty was visiting her family’s retreat on Center Lake in Becket, Massachusetts, when … something happened.

“I remember the first time I went there after Mike and I really heard him say, ‘It’s OK, Mom,’ ” Canty said. “It really was like he was within distance of me.”

It was a bit spooky, “but it helped,” Canty said.

Mike was killed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The 30-year-old commodities broker worked on the 92nd floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center, the building struck first by hijacked American Airlines Flight 11.

“It is still with you every day,” said Canty, 83, during an interview on the deck of her Niskayuna home. “It gets less hurtful and more positive. … You never get over it.”

As the nation remembers the Sept. 11 attacks, Canty remembers her easygoing, witty son. Michael Canty was the seventh of nine kids, a family raised by Kay and husband Ed, who passed away March 12 at age 88. Michael was a 1989 graduate of the former Linton High School, where he played guard on the Blue Devils football team. He graduated from Loyola College in Baltimore, Maryland.

Michael Canty also rooted for the Buffalo Bills — like all members of the Canty family — and was planning for marriage, had a Golden Retriever named Chester, appreciated bottles of Sam Adams beer and collected bunches of friends.

Twenty Septembers ago, Kay and Ed Canty were packing for a trip to Italy. Then news about the World Trade Center took over radios and televisions.

Ed was working on his home office computer.

“I went in and said, ‘I don’t know what’s going on in New York City, but we’re not going anywhere until we find out what’s really happening,’ ” said Kay, a former teacher in the Schenectady City School District. “And then we found out it was the World Trade Center, which Mike was in. We didn’t hear from Mike. The trip was canceled, but we would have canceled anyway.”

The Cantys waited to hear from their son, who worked for Carr Futures. “Then we heard from his company, asking if we had heard from him because they hadn’t heard from a lot of people,” Canty said.

Carr Futures lost a total of 69 employees on Sept. 11.

The large Canty family began assembling at the family’s home, then in Schenectady. Friends also began to stop by.

“We were inundated with friends and family, outside of our immediate family,” Canty said. “We just really kept very busy that day because people came to see us. It was just very heartwarming that people cared so much. It really helped a lot. There were lots of flowers and cards. People were incredibly generous.”

The Canty family decided to give back to the community. They started the Michael Canty Family Fun Run, a Labor Day weekend race in Schenectady’s Central Park that began a 10-year run in 2003. Proceeds went to the Michael Canty Memorial Fund, which continues to assist graduates of Schenectady High School with their college educations.
The run evolved into a golf tournament, which ran for another three years.

A memorial card announcing the Michael Canty Memorial Fund. STAN HUDY/THE DAILY GAZETTE

“I kept telling the people who were working on it, ‘You don’t have to do this forever,’ ” Canty said. “We have a lot of money invested wisely and we’re fine. I know it was a nice community thing, and I feel that more now than I did then. It just couldn’t go on forever.”

The memorial fund is not slowing down. Twenty students have been given financial aid for all four of their collegiate years; they have attended places such as Siena College, The College of Saint Rose, the University of Hartford in Hartford, Conn., the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Rochester Institute of Technology and Clarkson University.

More Remembrances: We remember; The Daily Gazette’s special Sept. 11 anniversary section 

The Canty fund also helps young people involved with Capital Region Sponsor-A-Scholar, which connects promising students with the mentors, resources and opportunities needed to help them earn college degrees.

Michael Canty’s body was found two weeks after the attacks. His grave is located in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Schenectady, near St. Paul’s Church.

Kay Canty said she met a woman at his funeral who had worked with Mike.

The woman had stopped for coffee on her way into the office and missed the explosion.

“It was just meant to be that she would live,” Canty said. “He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Canty added that there are occasional feelings of fate and “what if?” What if Mike had decided not to go to work on Sept. 11?

Canty has been to ground zero. She has seen the memorial that contains the names of the people killed in the tower attacks.

Kay Canty poses with her family during the 1980s. Sitting in the front row, from left, are Mike, Husband Ed, Kay, Catherine, Peter and Mary. Standing in the back row, from left, are Jim, Tom, Jack, Bill and Tim.

She also walked through the museum section of the tribute.

“When I came home, I told Ed, ‘Don’t go. It’s just reliving the whole thing,’ ” Canty said. “That’s the way they had to do it. I think they did it right, so people never forget or can be informed on what really happened. But I really didn’t need to go through it all again.”

Ed Canty did visit the memorial.

There has been further heartbreak for the Canty family. Son Jim died of glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, at his home in Concord, Massachusetts on April 25, 2017. He was 54.

The family remembers all departed members. Mike had always wanted to build a bunkhouse on the grounds of the Center Lake complex. A two-bedroom, two-loft building is now part of the complex.

There’s room for 11 kids and grandchildren; a plaque on the building reads, “Uncle Mike’s Bunkhouse.”

A cottage on the grounds has been built in Jim’s name.

Canty and local family members will attend a church service on Saturday, a Mass at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church on Union Street that will honor Mike, Jim and Ed. She knows others will also mark the day.

“I guess they have to observe it all in their own way,” Canty said. “It’s just something we can never forget. It was an attack on our country. Some people had to give up their lives for it, but I think it made us a better country.”

More Remembrances: We remember; The Daily Gazette’s special Sept. 11 anniversary section 

Categories: 9/11 20 Years Later, Life and Arts, News

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