LOWELL — Alexis Martinez was only 3 years old on Sept. 11, 2001, but the uncle he lost that day left a memory he can’t forget.
“I just remember his smile, honestly,” Martinez said of Brian Kinney, who died 15 years ago aboard United Airlines Flight 175. “It was just so vibrant. It just stuck with you.”
Kinney, 28, was among the victims of the terrorist attacks remembered Friday during a ceremony at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The event took place near a memorial for seven people who died during the assault and had ties to the school.
It’s one of two memorials in Lowell that bear the name of Kinney, who was on a business trip for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP when he was killed aboard the hijacked flight that took off from Logan International Airport in Boston and slammed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
The other memorial is nearby on the grounds of his family’s former Texaco station, where Kinney worked growing up and where he helped on weekends after graduating from UMass Lowell and launching a career in accounting.
Today the station is a parking lot, but the memorial stone at the corner of Pawtucket and Fletcher streets remains.
“The gas station is not there anymore, but a piece of it is part of Brian [and] that’s there,” said Kinney’s mother, Darlene.
Sister Cecile Cloutier recalled Kinney’s father, Norman, walking from the gas station to her nearby convent to deliver news that his son was aboard the doomed flight.
“When we saw it on TV it was devastating to see,” she said. “It was a big loss. It was a sad moment.”
A memorial Mass for Kinney is planned for Sunday at Saint Mary Magdalen Parish in Tyngsborough, Darlene Kinney said. She said the approaching anniversary is like removing a bandage from a wound.
“You know how it starts to hurt? That’s the best way I can explain it,” Kinney said. “The week that 9/11 is approaching is very difficult.”
The memorial at UMass sits on the banks of the Merrimack River and was dedicated in 2004.
In addition to Kinney, the circular stone is inscribed with the names of Douglas Gowell of Methuen, Robert Hayes of Amesbury, John Ogonowski of Dracut, Patrick Quigley IV of Wellesley, Christopher Zarba Jr. of Hopkinton, and Jessica Leigh Sachs, whose parents graduated from UMass Lowell.
Ogonowski was piloting American Airlines Flight 11 when it was hijacked after departing from Logan. His widow, Peg Hatch, said her family has endowed a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps scholarship at the school in his honor.
Ogonowski graduated in 1972 from Lowell Technological Institute, a predecessor of UMass Lowell. On Sunday, Hatch said she will act as master of ceremonies at a State House event marking the 15th anniversary of the attacks.
“It’s a milestone,” she said. “You see the passage of time in terms of young people growing up. It’s always bittersweet, I guess you would call it. It’s good to remember, but it’s sad to remember.”
Hatch said the finest tribute to Ogonowski is the couple’s farm in Dracut where peaches, blueberries, pumpkins, hay, and corn are harvested.
“His spirit is there,” she said. “In the spring when everything grows, I see his hand in everything.”Laura Crimaldi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.