To view this site, you need to have Flash Player 9.0.115 or later installed. Click here to get the latest Flash player.
(NECN: Alison King, Foxboro, Mass.) - As he battles brain cancer, Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy is not playing the front and center role in the health care overhaul currently being battled out in Washington. But behind the scenes, colleagues say he has been very active advocating for reform. It's not unlike the way he's handled his constituent services over the years, where many say his help has come quietly, often privately but with a relentless dedication to getting things done. That's the experience one 9/11 widow describes as she reflects back on her eight year relationship with the Senator. Cindy McGinty/911 widow: My phone rang and this booming voice came over the phone and it was the Senator. Cindy McGinty is reflecting back on the day -after- September 11th, 2001. The Foxboro, Massachusetts mother of two young boys was still in shock over the news. Her husband, Michael, a 42-year old insurance executive, was on the 99th floor of the World Trade Center's north tower when the first plane hit. She was now a widow and her sons, aged 7 and 8 - would be growing up without the father they adored. Amidst the chaos and grief of that day -- a phone call came in -- from Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. Cindy McGinty: And my first thought, just for a nanosecond was which one of my sick friends is playing a practical joke on me. But that voice is just so distinct and I realized, it was the Senator. Within 24 hours of the attack, Senator Kennedy had identified and called almost every Massachusetts family who had lost a loved one in the attack -- expressing his condolences and asking how he could help. Cindy: How hard those calls must have been to make. Because he didn't know any of us. I mean, he got it. I'm sure because of his own past history, but what a nice gesture, what a kind gesture. For those who have followed Kennedy’s career, the phone calls are not a surprise. Kennedy is legendary for the personal touch he has shown to his constituents over the years. Most of it done under the radar screen - far from the cameras. On that September 12th, eight years ago, Cindy McGinty felt grateful for that phone call from Senator Kennedy -- but she had no idea just how sincere he had been about his offer to help, and it wasn't long before she needed it. McGinty’s husband, a Naval Scademy graduate, had served in the military and Cindy wanted an honor guard at his memorial service. But she couldn't find the specific discharge papers the Navy said were required. McGinty: The Navy didn't even want to talk to me. They said, nope, sorry, you can't find this. So I thought, well, the Senator said if I ever needed anything. I called his office and in less than a day they called back and said, 'we got the special paper - it's all straightened out. There will be an honor guard there.' About a month after September 11th the reality of McGinty’s new life began to settle in. Her two young boys were having serious problems with anxiety and anger. She was trying to juggle the numerous doctor’s appointments, new medications, and issues at school. And there was a mountain of paperwork to fill out for insurance companies and the U.S. government. McGinty was feeling depressed and overwhelmed. And then a letter came from Ted Kennedy’s office. He was putting together a meeting in Boston - including all of the various agencies the 9/11 families might need. McGinty: I was just mired in paperwork and so depressed and having immediate problems with my kids and I thought.... he can help me. McGinty says she sat through the event where representatives got up to explain how they were helping the families. As senator Kennedy was getting ready to leave - McGinty says she raised her hand. Mcginty: And I stood up and said, my name is Cindy McGinty and I just have to say I can barely get out of bed in the morning and I have a seven and an eight-year-old boys. I'm totally traumatized and I can barely put one foot in front of the other. And I know you all say you're helping us, but you're not -- you're getting in our way. And with that, a bunch of people started to clap and everybody I guess was in the same boat that I was. McGinty says Senator Kennedy listened carefully, thanked her and promised to take action. McGinty: Apparently, after the meeting, he got in the car and told a couple of his aides, 'I don't ever want to hear again that Mrs. McGinty or any of the people in this room ever have another problem like this. Fix this and fix it fast.’ It wasn't long before every single 9/11 family in Massachusetts was assigned an "advocate." McGinty says the advocate would do as much or as little as any family wanted -- and Kennedy’s office was always watching... McGinty: And he broke through all of the red tape -- if you wanted. Did you want it? Oh yeah. And I needed it. And to this day, that's what helped my family. In the months and years that followed, McGivney’s advocate made phone calls, filled out paperwork and provided respite care. She says the advocate was a lifesaver. Cindy McGinty: Take Senator Kennedy out of the whole recovery mix. There's no Kennedy office. There's no Senator. I think I would be hospitalized. I honestly think I would be hospitalized. And McGinty’s connection with the senator did not end there. About a year after 9/11, one of McGinty’s boys was still experiencing problems. McGinty: And my phone rang again. And I heard, Hi, it's Ted Kennedy from Washington - I don't even know how he found out. That you were having problems with your son? Uh huh... And there he was, my guardian angel. These are the best Doctors, here's the best hospital. How can I be helpful to you? McGinty believes Kennedy’s ability to work with the 9/11 families -- as well as the families who have lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan -- is based on his own life experiences: Losing two brothers to assassinations and his oldest brother in world war two. Not to mention a lifetime of ups and downs that has played out on the national stage. Cindy McGinty: Honestly, Senator Kennedy has been my role model about how you move forward. How you put one foot in front of the other. Because here is a man who has experienced so much tragedy in his life and does so much good for other people. ........I look at him and I think, if he can do it, gosh, I can certainly get out of bed in the morning and do something good for somebody else today. Not a year has gone by that McGinty hasn't heard from Kennedy. There was the year he called and invited her to come sailing just Kennedy, McGinty and her two boys. The only business discussed that day? What the needs still were for 9/11 families. McGinty: It was when Kerry was running for President. And I found out later that he had a meeting with Kerry later in the day. But you would have thought he didn't have a thing to do that day... Kennedy has become someone McGinty could always depend on -- so it was devastating when she learned the senator was diagnosed with brain cancer. McGinty: My first feeling was that I had been punched in the stomach. My second feeling was that cancer does not know what it has met ... Honestly that's how I felt. McGinty knows the Senator is a controversial figure nationwide -- that his life has been far from perfect. But she has experienced his compassion and his commitment to get things done. And if she had a chance to see him today? Cindy McGinty: What would you want to say to him? Oh gosh. I love you. I admire you. You're my guardian angel. I hope to be half the person you are. After years of benefiting from the senator's help, McGinty only hopes her positive wishes can help him.