“And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby.
Dear readers: We hope that you are enjoying a summer respite from the pandemic and reuniting with friends and family. We are living through strange and stressful times, to be sure, but I do not doubt that things will get better.
History makes plain that the Irish are resilient. And it is history that we lean on as we find our way forward in these troubled times.
In this issue, Tom Deignan talks to a wide-range of people about coping during the lockdown. For many, it was the small things that helped the most. A family coming together to applaud healthcare workers every night at 7 pm, a single mother finding inspiration in the positive attitude of her young daughter, and an innovative Irish priest hearing confessions in a shed and saying mass in a Walmart parking lot. When we look back at this time in our history, these are the stories that will inspire us.
We can take great pride, too, in Irish volunteers who raised money for those in need, and provided food for seniors and other services in their communities, and beyond.
Kelly Candaele, a California writer, found inspiration in Ireland. He visited in July, and though the pubs were closed, he was not at a loss for things to do. He sought out the landscape that inspired “Postscript” one of Seamus Heaney’s most uplifting poems. “And some time make the time to drive out west /Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore. . . .” Kelly, who takes us on that journey with him, encourages us to read Heaney’s book, The Spirit Level, and take the poet’s words to our hearts.
One bright spot for me, over the past 18-months, was embracing Zoom, which proved to be an important connection to the outside world for all of us, especially schoolchildren. We are pleased to bring you an interview with our “Irishman at Zoom,” Dublin-born Harry Moseley, who talks about how the communications company had to pivot quickly to accommodate the demand. And, if Zoom is the future, Ray Cavanaugh takes us to past and the early days of
Artificial Intelligence, with a profile of John McCarthy, “The Father of Thinking Machines.”
And so, as we try to retain a positive attitude in these tumultuous times, we look again to our history – to the labor movement and Rosemary Rogers’ piece on Leonora O’Reilly who never stopped agitating for better conditions for industrial workers. It was the labor movement that hoisted the Irish onto the first rungs of the ladder out of poverty – and hopefully, it will be the labor unions that will put thousands of Americans to work when the badly needed Infrastructure Bill gets passed.
In this issue, too, we look to the heartbreak of 9/11, when we lost so many of our own. With the 20th anniversary looming, Lynn Tierney, then a deputy fire commissioner with the FDNY, takes us back to that time, and its aftermath. Peter Foley was there, too. His photographs, including our cover image, are haunting.
Sometimes, the gem of a story is in a caption. In the days before 9/11, FDNY Chief Feehan is pictured on a fireboat with his young grandson, Connor – the Twin Towers are visible in the background. Feehan was one of the 343 firefighters who died on 9/11 (1000 children lost an FDNY parent). You don’t recover from such a loss, but a kind of moving on does happen, and in that we find hope. Connor, just a young boy in the photograph, is now a firefighter with the FDNY.
And so “We beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past,” even as we move forward into the future. We have to believe, as Oscar Wilde, who had a quip for every occasion, said: “Everything is going to be fine in the end. If it’s not fine, it’s not the end.”
Thank you to all our subscribers for your patience. It is thrilling for us to bring you this print issue. We hope to be back to a full publishing schedule in 2022. If you haven’t signed up for our weekly digital newsletter please do so, there’s a link on our website: www.irishamerica.com. The newsletter offers a wonderful mix of archival material, new commentary, and Zoom interviews with authors and leading figures of the day. ♦