Thomas McGuinness

Thomas McGuinnessTwo days before his senior prom, Tom F. McGuinness made a life-altering choice: he asked a young woman named Cheryl to be his date. It didn’t give her a lot of time to prepare, but she agreed. “I got a dress and we went to the prom, and we stayed together ever since,” Cheryl McGuinness said recently.

But then Mr. McGuinness, 42, was big on life-altering decisions. About a year and a half ago, he and his wife and children, Jennifer, 16, and Tommy, 14, decided to move back east, to Portsmouth, N.H., from California, in part so Mr. McGuinness could pursue better opportunities with American Airlines. He was the co-pilot on American Airlines Flight 11, which struck the north tower of the World Trade Center.

More significant, his wife said, was a decision he made eight years ago, while they were attending a small Bible study group. Mr. McGuinness had always been a religious man — the family attends a nondenominational Christian church — but hearing others talk about their relationship with God gave Mr. McGuinness a new perspective, and he found his faith intensifying.

That realization prompted a change in him, said his wife. “Our family strengthened, his relationship with the kids strengthened, our marriage strengthened. The way we showed love to one another deepened,” she said. “It was the biggest blessing that I could have received.”

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