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Thomas Brophy

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Matthew Brophy as a newborn with his father Tom. Photo from Rita Brophy

He was only 3 years old when his father passed away.

Matthew Brophy in a recent photo. Photo from Rita Brophy

Matthew Brophy, of Smithtown, is now 19 years old and has no personal memories of his father Thomas Brophy. His dad was a New York City police officer for 16 years and was also a first responder at Ground Zero. His father died in 2005 at the age of 36 after a battle with metastatic colon cancer. Doctors believed Tom Brophy’s cancer stemmed from his work at Ground Zero during the days after September 11.

Matthew Brophy, now a sophomore at Adelphi University, has the memories that his mother Rita and loved ones have shared with him through the years. The stories have left him with a loving impression of his father.

“I would describe him as a valiant, strong and charismatic individual,” Matthew Brophy said.

Among those in his life who knew his dad are old friends, including Tom Brophy’s police partner Rich Seagriff and training buddy Matt Fagan.

“His old friends treat me like I am their own son,” he said.

The son said one of his favorite stories is hearing how his father lost sight of him for a brief moment at Best Buy when he was 2. The then-toddler had a SpongeBob DVD in his hand and started walking out of the store only to set off the alarm.

Like his parents, Brophy grew up in the Hauppauge school district. He graduated from Hauppauge High School in 2020. When it came time to learn about 9/11 in class, he said the information was nothing new to him.

“I really haven’t learned anything particularly new in the school system about 9/11 and Ground Zero due to me being a child that was involved with it,” he said. “If anything, I knew more than the teachers about it. For the most part, it is taught just to be taught in history in the first week because the first or second week of high school in America usually falls on 9/11, at least in Suffolk it does.”

Brophy added it’s not a subject teachers delve into that deeply and usually students are shown a video of the planes crashing into the towers.

“It gets to a point where it’s so routine I genuinely feel offended, especially when everyone in the class knows that they’re in a class with a kid whose dad died from 9/11,” he said. “Needless to say, I don’t think it’s something that needs to be taught as of now, but in the future, yes. If people are still suffering physically from an event, that means that it is still undeniably relevant enough to be known.”

Brophy was recently awarded a scholarship from the First Responders Children’s Foundation and is currently pursuing a degree in psychology. He also has been juggling three jobs.

His mother said she is proud of him and “the man he is becoming.”

Rita Brophy said her son’s biggest quality is loyalty, just like his dad.

“He is exposed to many friends with many cultural beliefs and he respects them,” she said. “Hopefully, his view in the world will continue to be open-minded and loving of everyone he meets.”