Hole remains in 'fabric of family' for Sept. 11 victim's brother

As Tom Shanower remembers the death of his younger brother in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he also remembers the good times.

The growing-up moments. The teasing arguments around the dinner table. Brotherhood.

Shanower, 59, and his memories of his sibling will be featured Sunday during the city of Naperville's Sept. 11 ceremony at 1 p.m. at the Cmdr. Dan Shanower/Sept. 11 Memorial.

A Naval intelligence official, Cmdr. Shanower died at age 40 when the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into his office at the Pentagon.

The Daily Herald talked with his older brother, who now lives in California, about his reflections on the 15th anniversary of the attack. Here is an edited version of the conversation.

Q. How has the Sept. 11 attack changed your family's lives?

A. To lose a family member is a huge event. It's like a hole in the fabric of your family. It's the circumstances around the loss that make it more poignant. I don't think we're any different, really, from people who have lost a family member in other sorts of ways.

Q. How has the passage of time changed your thoughts about the attack?

A. It was such a monumental event. It was just shocking to everyone - almost incomprehensible. Now we've seen a steady recurrence of these, maybe not to the magnitude of the Sept. 11 event, but a steady occurrence of terrorist attacks around the world. My feeling is that we've just become numb to the whole concept of terrorist attacks, so I think that's a big change. People who travel a lot sort of feel like if there is an attack, it's a random event and it's people just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's hard to prepare yourself.

Q. How does your family carry on Dan's legacy?

Cmdr. Dan Shanower

A. We talk about him a lot and we think about him. He would be 55 years old this year. Like all people who pass before their time, really they're sort of frozen in time. Dan will always be a 40-year-old man. … We also set up some scholarships at Naperville Central High School and at Carrol College in his name. We think that's a great legacy.

Q. What else can be done to prevent more terrorist attacks from occurring?

A. It seems to me that the country is doing just about all it can do. … We just have to try and be engaged in the world - to learn about and understand the issues that are going on, to have an opinion and to be an active member of our country. What we shouldn't do is sit home and let everyone else deal with the problems. A lot of us feel helpless, like "What can I, as an individual, do?" But rather than feel helpless, we can at least learn about the issues and try and understand what's going on.

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