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Bridge will memorialize a 9/11 couple’s bond

Shawn Nassaney and Lynn Goodchild began dating when they were students at Bryant University in Rhode Island. Shawn Nassaney and Lynn Goodchild began dating when they were students at Bryant University in Rhode Island.
By Vivian Yee
Globe Correspondent / July 27, 2011

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She lived in Attleboro. He lived in Pawtucket, R.I. To see each other, as they did so often after becoming a couple, Lynn Goodchild and Shawn Nassaney, 25, often drove the 60-foot stretch of County Street that goes over a railroad and connects his hometown to hers.

Tomorrow, almost 10 years after the two were killed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, their families will look on as city and state officials dedicate the bridge to the memory of Goodchild and Nassaney. A construction site since 2006, the County Street bridge and another nearby were reconstructed as part of a state project that cost $6.6 million.

“All we can say is thank you for not forgetting,’’ said Patrick Nassaney, 64, Shawn’s father, who lives in Millville. “We’re honored.’’

On Sept. 11, the pair, who loved to travel, had boarded United Flight 175 to Los Angeles, where they planned to catch a connection to Maui, Hawaii. Their plane was hijacked by terrorists, who flew it into the south tower of the World Trade Center.

Nassaney and Goodchild had begun dating as students at Bryant University, where Goodchild was a karate standout and Nassaney an avid runner. Their careers quickly took off. By age 25, Goodchild worked as a fund administrator at Putnam Investments and Nassaney was a sales trainer at American Power Conversion. The two had recently begun night classes together at Providence College, working toward MBA degrees.

They were not yet engaged, but only because Goodchild was looking ahead, said her brother, Neil, 37. “My sister was very practical and said, ‘We’re not getting engaged till after school, not spending money on a ring,’ ’’ he said.

Although the two never married, their relationship still links the Goodchilds and the Nassaneys, who lean on one another for support and for the memories they share of Shawn and Lynn. Their parents see each other a few times a year; Neil Goodchild and the two Nassaney brothers, Patrick Jr. and Ryan, also talk occasionally.

Tomorrow, they will reunite at a ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by Attleboro Mayor Kevin Dumas, Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien, and state and transportation officials. After the ceremony at 10 a.m., the “Goodchild and Nassaney 9/11 Remembrance Bridge’’ will reopen, once again linking the two communities.

“It’s fitting,’’ said Dumas, who had been friends with Goodchild at Attleboro High School. “This provided a very unique opportunity for Lynn.’’

Patrick Nassaney said he may not show much emotion in public, but afterward, when the two families gather, they will “open up to each other.’’

A decade later, both families have learned to handle their grief, relatives said. Yet small things - running into one of Shawn’s old friends, for instance - can quickly bring it welling back.

“We don’t use the word closure, because that just doesn’t apply,’’ Patrick Nassaney said. “But as life goes on, there’s a thin veneer that kind of covers the hurt. It’s easily pierced - then you’re back to where you were 10 years ago.’’

After his death, Nassaney’s family set up two scholarships, a memorial award at his high school, and a cross country race at Bryant University in his honor. Their church in Pawtucket will hold a memorial for him Sept. 11 to commemorate the anniversary. Goodchild’s family hosts a golf tournament and a dance “for Shawn and Lynn’’ every year, in addition to overseeing a scholarship fund.

But until now, there were no physical memorials to Goodchild in Attleboro, with the exception of a small monument in Capron Park. It bears her name alongside those of other victims of US wars and conflicts.

It was Dumas’s secretary, Kathy Ilkowitz, 42, and her husband who first suggested naming the bridge after Goodchild. Dumas asked state Representative George Ross, who represents Attleboro, to sponsor a bill in the Legislature that would name the bridge in their honor.

Neil Goodchild works near the bridge and passes it every day on his way to the post office. He is grateful that the public landmark his sister used to drive over will bear her name.

“It’s going to be a nice little connection between Pawtucket and Attleboro again,’’ he said.

Vivian Yee can be reached at vyee@globe.com.