By Róisín Chapman
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum last week ahead of the 20th Anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Minister Coveney paid his respects to the 2,977 people who lost their lives in the various attacks by laying a wreath at the ‘Survivor tree’, a lone pear tree discovered in the rubble and placed at the memorial site in 2010.
Among the victims is FDNY Captain Martin Egan, whose son Seán co-founded the 9/11 Memorial & Museum Visionary Network. Seán, alongside museum staff, showed Minister Coveney the inscriptions of the names of the victims, many of whom were of Irish American heritage, including Seán’s own father.
Captain Egan had joined the FDNY in 1986. A Staten Island native, he showed pride in his Irish heritage through his membership in the fire department’s Emerald Society. He was among 343 firefighters that selflessly gave their lives to save countless others on September 11th 2001. He was 36 years old.
Speaking after the ceremony, Minister Coveney said:
“Visiting the 9/11 memorial today, 20 years after the tragic loss of so many lives, was an incredibly moving experience. So many Irish and Irish-American people were affected by the events of that day, including many from the emergency services who were the first to respond when the attacks took place.”
Another first responder was Fr. Mychal Judge who, upon hearing of the attacks, made his way to the World Trade Center to administer last rights. FDNY Chaplain Father Judge was the son of Irish immigrants hailing from Leitrim. He became the first official victim of the attacks after his body was recovered. Fr. Judge ministered to the homeless, hungry and those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. An open advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, his legacy has been immortalized in “Remembering Mychal” a film by Brendan Fay.
Cork native Ruth Clifford McCourt was aboard United Flight 175 with her four-year-old daughter Julianna. Ruth’s brother, Ron Clifford, had a meeting rescheduled to the Marriott World Trade Center that morning. He was one of the lucky who survived. Ruth’s name can be found inscribed alongside her daughter’s on the South Tower memorial.
Sisters Joanne and Grace worked in the North and South Towers respectively. They had moved to New York together and bought apartments in the same Brooklyn building. Grace made it out of the World Trade Center to call her family home in Dublin and report she was okay. The family never heard from Joanne. Her name can be found on a panel at the footprint of the North Tower.
“I wanted to come here and remember those people, and the loss felt by their family and friends. This beautiful Memorial will help ensure that we never forget those who lost
their lives that day,” said Minister Coveney at the ceremony on Thursday 9th.
Remembering from afar, the town of Ballymote in Co. Sligo paid tribute to the victims including Kieran Gorman from Carrowcurragh, Lavagh. The ceremony, hosted by former TD John Perry, was held at the National Memorial for the Fighting 69th and the Victims of September 11th.
Mr Perry said a “special effort” was made to carry out an in-person flag raising ceremony this year given the 20th anniversary. Former New York Mayor Bloomberg, who unveiled the monument in 2006, recorded a message for the event.
“Every year without fail we do something very important. We gather together and we remember with deep gratitude how people of every background from every country and every faith rushed to our aid,” said Mr Bloomberg.
“We honor the lives and the legacies of those who died, including the heroes who died trying to save others, and we honor the countless acts of courage and kindness that lifted us as we recovered and rebuilt. Thank you for coming together to remember a day that we must never forget.”
The church bell rang out at 1.45pm (Irish time) to mark the time the first plane hit. This was followed by both the Irish and American national anthems.
Consul General of Ireland, Helena Nolan, and Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, Chief Staff of the Irish Defence Forces, joined Minister Coveney on his visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in downtown Manhattan.
“We wanted, here in the Consulate, to find an appropriate way to mark this 20th anniversary, to acknowledge the courage and the community spirit, the role of the first responders and the generosity of the people of this great city, in the aftermath of such a terrible event,” said Consul General Nolan at a virtual event on Friday 10th.
“At times of heightened emotion, including loss and suffering, poetry can be a great solace and a comfort and so, we decided to commission a new poem for this occasion, in honor of the Chaplain of the New York Fire Department, Fr. Mychal Judge, and as a tribute to all the First Responders.”
“What Holds” is a poem by Jessica Traynor, commissioned by the Consulate, in tribute to those that lost their lives that day:
For more tributes to the heroes of 9/11 read visit Irish America’s page Remembering September 11th.