Fire fighter Sean Cummins from Dublin, who works out of Squad One in Brooklyn, New York, narrowly escaped death in the Twin Towers disaster on September 11. He was scheduled to work that day, and had traded time off with a colleague because he wanted to drop his mother, Marie, to the airport. She was returning to Ireland after visiting her son, his wife, Maureen, and their three little girls at their home in Queens, New York.
Had he not taken the time off, he most likely would have been one of the first on the scene at Ground Zero, along with most of the men from Squad One. On that horrendous day, 12 of his 26 colleagues died in the inferno. Sean Cummins heard the news as he drove his mother to Kennedy Airport, and he immediately turned around and went straight to work.
The plight of New York’s firemen resonated with their counterparts across the globe, and Ireland was no exception. Sean Cummins’s mother, Marie, lives in Coolmine Close in Dublin, almost directly beside the firehouse in the suburb of Blanchardstown, on Dublin’s north side. All the firefighters know her, and when they heard of Sean’s experiences, they decided they wanted to do something to mark the event and to show their solidarity.
John Halstead, who has been a fireman for almost 20 years, explained what they did. “We knew Sean’s mother was worried about him, with all that he had been through, and we thought it would be nice to get him home for a break. We decided to twin the two fire stations, and organized a memorial for those men from Squad One who died.”
At the beginning of December, Sean Cummins was present when a plaque was unveiled at Blanchardstown Fire Station, bearing the names of both stations and the crest of the Dublin Fire Brigade. He was given an identical plaque to take back to Brooklyn.
“It’s fate that he didn’t end up like the others who died,” said John Halstead. “He was supposed to be working that day. I think he enjoyed his trip home because he could talk to us about his experiences. He could relate to us because we have had some of the same experiences, although obviously nothing like what he saw in New York. It must be incredibly hard to lose half your unit like that. We stayed up until 1.45 a.m. talking to him.”
Speaking in New York on his return from Dublin, Sean Cummins commented that “It was great meeting the guys in Dublin — I spent one night just talking to them. It meant such a lot to know that people 3,000 miles away felt the same way that we did. It was amazing to know that they supported us.” He added that the plaque had already been hung on the wall of the Brooklyn firehouse, albeit in a temporary location, until a planned permanent memorial is erected. ♦