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Sharing personal tragedy with the 'world stage'

The memories and legacy of Jeffrey Dingle live on long after his passing

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Jeffrey Dingle was one of about 75 people who started the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, at a conference in one of the country’s most famous and highest-grossing restaurants — Windows on the World, located on the 106th and 107th floors of the World Trade Center 1, the north tower.

The West Hempstead native, who had been living with his wife and two children in the Bronx at that time, was an employee of the network solutions company Encompys. Jeffrey, 32, usually worked out of midtown, but that day, he found himself at a meeting of the Risk Waters Financial Technology Congress. Everyone who attended that conference, along with 16 Risk Water employees and some 73 restaurant staff members died after American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower at 8:46 a.m.

Several weeks before Jeffrey died, he and his wife, Dr. Nichole Braithwaite-Dingle, had renewed their vows in celebration of 10 years of marriage. Jeffrey had taken his wife’s wedding ring — without her knowledge — to be refitted with a new diamond. After the Sept. 11 attack, “she kept telling all of us that he must come home because he’s the only one who knew where the ring was, where the jeweler was, and that he was going to bring back her wedding ring,” said Jeffrey’s older brother, Derrick Dingle. “In the days shortly after, she was keeping hope that … maybe he ended up in a hospital or disoriented or something.”

But in time the flame of hope was extinguished and everyone would have to accept that Jeffrey was not coming home. Luckily for Nichole, she was able to find the jeweler’s receipt and get her ring back.

Although Jeffrey is gone, his memory lives on through his relatives, his children and his friends. It also continues to live through his legacy as an outstanding football player: Jeffrey was the All-American running back for West Hempstead High School in the mid-1980s. He was runner-up for the Thorpe Award in 1985 and went on to play the sport at Villanova University, where he is still listed as number 10 on the all-time leading rusher list.

In an article published in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Feb. 12, 1986, staff writer Chuck Newman noted that Villanova’s then-coach Andy Talley looked to bulk up the running back position by adding Jeffrey, who he described as a 5-foot-9-inch tall, 175-pound rusher. Newman went on to write that at West Hempstead High School, Jeffrey “gained 1,045 yards on 137 carries (7.6) and scored nine touchdowns … and was the most valuable player in the Nassau County senior all-star game.”

But Jeffrey’s brother remembers him as more than a fantastic athlete; he remembers him as a devoted husband and a loving father, brother and friend.

“His smile, his personality, his interest in people” were some of Jeffrey’s qualities that stood out, according to Dingle. “He wanted to engage and know people, he had an infectious personality, one that was very engaging. He lit up any room that he was in, but was also very giving — the type of person that gives you the shirt off his back.”

Dingle said he was “amazed” to learn of the impact his brother had on the lives of strangers. Several hundred people turned out for the memorial service Jeffrey’s family held in his honor at a golf course in the Bronx where he had loved to play. “We felt it was fitting,” Dingle said of the location. “There was a great outpouring of love from people from all over the country.”

Jeffrey’s remains were never found.

As the world commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks earlier this month, the Dingle family experienced it as though as it was yesterday. “It was a tragedy that was deeply personal to our family,” Dingle said, “but it was something that you have to share with the world stage.”

There are constant reminders, he added, that keep the memory “very fresh and alive.” It’s important to the Dingle family to keep that memory alive for Jeffrey’s son, Jassiem, who was 9 years old when his father was killed, and daughter, Nia, who was 3.

According to his uncle, Jassiem, now a 19-year-old student at the University of Southern California, often says, “Sept. 11 is an opportunity for the world to mourn, but we live with this each and every day.”