Patricia Hill of Summerville may cook dinner for the homeless today.

She already bought the ingredients for the meal — mac and cheese, Hoppin’ John, red rice, string beans and turkey wings.

It depends on how the day goes. She works two full-time jobs as a medical assistant phlebotomist (she draws blood) — one at Roper Hospital; the other at a doctor’s office.

In her spare time, she manages her church’s soup kitchen. The 63-year-old is always busy. But for the last decade, she finds herself doing even more to help others.

Her baby brother would have appreciated that. He, too, sought to help people.

Irving Vincent Gailliard did just that Sept. 11 when he made it out of the World Trade Center. But he went back in — to help others.

‘We were like zombies’

Hill knows that like thousands of others across the nation today, she and her siblings may shed some tears.

“It was a horrible day. We were like zombies — in a state of shock.”

She had just gotten off her overnight job. The car would not start; she called AAA.

She had lots of errands, including taking Granny to the doctor and grocery shopping.

The repairman talked about a tragedy unfolding in New York, but nothing registered for Hill.

About 3 p.m., after her errands, her sister called. No one had heard from Vincent, a security guard at the Trade Center.

After two agonizing days of not knowing, family members flew to New York. They stayed a week, still not knowing fully or believing fully what had happened.

They would later learn that someone saw Vincent come out of the building, then turn around and rush back in. He did not come out again.

At a memorial service Dec. 29, 2001, in New York, Hill’s son spoke:

“My uncle was a hero because he went back in to help others.”

Like the firefighters — he too is a hero, but no one knows about what he did.

Now they do.

Energizer Bunny

Hill plans to attend a prayer service at her church, Evening of Prayer Church of God in Christ in North Charleston.

But she now honors her brother’s memory by giving back. Twice a week, she goes by Costco to pick up cakes, pies and bread donations for the needy.

At Christmastime, she adopts a family.

Co-workers and friends call her the Energizer Bunny — she stays on the go. “I can function on three to four hours of sleep.”

She has four adult children, including one with Down syndrome; and she raised a grandson.

Even an emergency appendectomy on July 13 did not keep her down for long.

Her brother’s death has taught her to value life. “I don’t take anything for granted any more.”

They called him Dad

Gailliard, 42, lived in the Bronx. An Army veteran, he had worked at the World Trade Center for three years.

He had no biological children but was father to his girlfriend’s children. They called him Dad. His girlfriend said he was a wonderful father.

“He was a beautiful person,” Hill said of the brother she helped raise.

Their mother was the same age when she died.

So Hill will go to work today, then see how the day evolves.

To others who lost loved ones: “Keep looking up to God, and he will see you through. He has kept me going.”

And that dinner? “When I get time off, I cook.”

Reach City Editor Shirley A. Greene at 937-5555 or sgreene@postandcourier.com.