"That's what I'm telling you," his mother said. "What you know is all you know, but before that, airplane security wasn't as strict as it is now."

And with that, Danny is one step closer to understanding that the world his uncle lived in and the world he was born into are vastly different from one another, though they're separated by little more than a year.

While some details are hard to grasp, his parents believe that Danny understands more about 9/11 than his classmates at Immaculate Conception School.

Danny has never discussed his uncle with his best friend, Douglas, and only really discusses him with family members. He's not sure friends would understand.


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"My uncle died, and a lot of theirs didn't," he said. "He died on 9/11, and a lot of theirs didn't."

Though he never met his uncle, Danny knows all about him.

Danny knows his uncle was born in March, was named Umpire of the Year by the Lutherville-Timonium Recreation Council at age 14, went to Boston College and got his master's at Georgetown. He knows Uncle Danny was a Loyola Don. He wants to be one, too.

When Kathleen thinks back to when she was a child — she was just a year younger than her brother Daniel — she notices plenty of other similarities between the two.

"Their physical appearance is fairly similar," she said. "Danny definitely has his gift of gab, and his knowledge of sports.

"And he's sweet. They both have very sweet, loving, generous personalities."

Kathryn McNeal, Danny's grandmother, spends a lot of time with "her little buddy," teaching him life lessons and helping his studies the same way she did with Daniel.

Despite how quickly he was born after Daniel's death, his family is careful not to view Danny as a second coming.

"[His grandmother] knows that Danny's not her son, but I think she looks at him the way she would have looked at her own son years back," Michael Sheeler said.

There are differences. Danny plays soccer and baseball. Uncle Danny wasn't an athlete, though as team manager, he received honorary letters from Loyola's football, basketball, and soccer teams.

Yet the fact that Danny is the nephew and spitting image of Daniel McNeal — his namesake, class president, debate team captain, and friend of so many of Danny's classmate's fathers — could weigh on Danny as he grows older.

"My brother was such an accomplished person that I think he's got a hard act to follow," Kathleen said. "Too many times, people expect him to be [Dan Jr.], and it's tough on him.

"He doesn't realize it yet, but we realize it. He's got a lot to live up to his uncle. He'll see it down the road.

"But I think each year, he'll learn more and more, and comprehend more and more."

"My uncle died. … He died on 9/11"

Daniel Michael Sheeler