Remembering September 11th
September 11, 2001 left an indelible mark on the world. On that day 2,977 died and over 6,000 were injured in New York, Washington, D.C., and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Over the past 20 years Irish America has published many stories of those affected by the tragedy of 9/11. We share with you some of those stories.
Irish America honored the heroes and victims of 9/11 at its annual Top 100 event held on March 14, 2002 at The Plaza Hotel, New York City. The honorees came from every segment of the community – firefighters and police officers, ironworkers who cleared Ground Zero for rescue workers, and families who had lost loved ones. The guest speaker, President of Ireland Mary McAleese, gave the following heartfelt speech, uniting Irish and Irish American forever. She presented specially commissioned Waterford Crystal American flags to representatives of the New York Police Department, the Fire Department of New York, and the Port Authority Police of New York and New Jersey. Read more +
Ladder 123 is located on a gritty stretch of St. John’s Place off of Schenectady Avenue in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. Ladder 123 shares quarters with Engine 234 as well as Battalion 38, and back in May, the whole firehouse – along with houses in all five boroughs of New York City – opened its doors to the neighborhood as part of ceremonies celebrating the FDNY’s 150th anniversary. Read more.
Gander, Newfoundland: Hannah O’Rourke and Sandra O’Reilly Taylor, women from two different worlds who were tossed together in the turbulent wake of September 11, now share one of those bonds made of awful tragedy.
Hannah and husband Dennis of Lawrence, N.Y., a Long Island suburb of New York City, were on Aer Lingus 105, a flight bound from Dublin to New York that was diverted to this small town of 10,000 in central Newfoundland. Read more.
In the years since the attacks on September 11, 2001, memorials both big and small have been built throughout the United States and across the globe. The most immediate ones were impromptu – garlands draped on a parked car it became clear no one would claim, notes and photographs taped to fences and walls around New York City, candles placed outside of Ladder Company fire houses.
Others came in time. With the realization that so many people would not be coming home, names were added to lists that grew longer and longer. Names of firefighters, of executives and their staff members, of police officers, of building workers, of airplane passengers, of Pentagon officials – 2,973 in total. Their names are now engraved and commemorated in hundreds of permanent memorials in the most directly devastated areas – New York, New Jersey, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania – and in some less expected places, providing a lasting reminder of the global effect of the September 11th attacks Read more.
On September 11, 2001, my nineteenth birthday, I woke up in my St. Mary’s College of California dorm room to the sound of the phone ringing at 6:45 a.m. Groggily, I picked up and listened to my mom’s voice telling me to turn on my television. My memories of the rest of that day are strewn with images of planes crashing into buildings over and over again. I attempted to go to class, on the way seeing a crowd of students in the hallway huddled under a screen showing the crashing planes. My classes were all canceled except for one, in which my teary-eyed teacher asked the class to discuss the tragedy for about twenty minutes.
My boyfriend of the time took me out that night for a birthday dinner. The restaurant was eerily quiet except for another crowd huddled under another TV with more crashing planes, along with some images of dusty streets and crowds of horrified running people in between. While I understood that the disaster was huge, it seemed surreal to me. I felt very distant from it, and the bombardment of the repetitive footage of the crashing planes only numbed me and made it even harder to grasp the true immensity and horror of what had happened. Read more.
They are still with us, the shoes. Tan-colored Rockports. Size tens. We have put them in a box and left them in the corner of a cupboard, although the reason why we have kept them is still mysterious to me.
On September 11th my father-in-law was in Tower One of the World Trade Center. Miraculously he managed to escape. Unable to return to his home on Long Island, he walked, instead, to my family’s apartment on the East Side of Manhattan. He came down the corridor, covered in dirt and debris. My four-year-old daughter, Isabella, ran to meet him. She jumped into his arms but then recoiled, didn’t say a word. Later – when her grandfather had changed his clothes and shoes – she snuggled in his lap. Read more.
“What kind of guy was Michael Lynch?”
“I’ll tell you what he was,” said one of his firefighter coworkers. “There are two different kinds of guys that get on the Department. Those that got on the job, and those that get into the job. He was a guy that got into his work.”
Lynch was just 33 years old, married for five years and had two kids. He worked out a firehouse in mid-Manhattan, just a few blocks from the Ed Sullivan Theater and Broadway itself. Lynch had been on the job 11 years and was close to being promoted. Read more.
We would see them when city leaves turned yellow with autumn, standing in the open doors of those firehouses. Inside, the red fire trucks and engines glistened with the pride of craftsmen who respected their tools. They seemed to love talking with small children. They were all, it seemed, fond of dogs. They sometimes paused and breathed deeply of the crisp air of October, for no men understood better the special beauty of a cleansing breeze. It seemed that they were always laughing. Read more.
September 12, 2001: After a 26-hour shift Brendan McCormack emerges exhausted out of the darkness and into another day. A Donegal man, who has lived in the U.S. for 17 years, McCormack is an ironworker.
Minutes after the collapse of the Twin Towers, he and other ironworkers from all over the city dropped their tools and leapt into action, crusading down to the effort at Ground Zero. “I hope I can make a difference,” he says. “I’m doing my job down there, I feel good that I can help.” Read more.
Her name was Moira Ann Smith and she was a good cop from the neighborhood where I lived. I don’t know that I ever saw her on patrol in the Stuyvesant Town and Gramercy Park areas of Manhattan which she patrolled from the 13th Percinct. But in the days and weeks after September 11, I saw her face every day on the Missing posters along with her partner Robert Fazio, another good cop form the neighborhood. It seemed the two faces were everywhere, at the Ess a Bagel store, at the Emerald Card Store, at Gristedes’ supermarket. Read more.
Bill Feehan loved eggs over easy. Every day for the last 20 years at least he stopped at the Northern Cross Diner in Queens and read the Daily News as he had his usual breakfast of two eggs, toast, hash browns and bacon. He also loved Shepherd’s Pie, was a sucker for a good crumb cake and on occasion enjoyed a sip of scotch with the boys in the office unwinding after a hard day. He loved to hear from his sons and daughters throughout the day as they checked in with him on dinner plans. They mothered him since the death of his beloved wife Betty in 1996 and made sure he ate right, did his laundry and stayed on him about paying his bills on time, which is a whole other story. They regaled him with the latest exploits of the grandchildren and sent them along for those precious rides on the fireboat with Grandpa. Read more.
United Flight 175, a Boeing 767 non-stop from Boston’s Logan Airport to Los Angeles with seven flight attendants and 56 passengers on board, rolled back from Gate 19 shortly after 7:45 a.m. on September 11th. The captain was Victor J. Saracini, 51, a native of Pennsylvania.
Ruth Clifford McCourt, 45 and her four-year-old daughter, Juliana, were among the passengers. A native of Ireland, Ruth was an extremely successful businesswoman who had created a Boston beauty spa that drew customers from all over Europe and the U.S. She was also strikingly beautiful. Tall, blond and elegant, Ruth was perfectly dressed for every occasion. Juliana was a duplicate of her mother, with angelic good looks and a mischievous smile. At a wedding just the week before, Juliana had played with the other children. Afterwards one of the mothers told Ruth that her daughter had said she’d been “playing with an angel,” meaning Juliana. Read more.
Tuesday, September 11 started, unusually, for Kerry man Eamonn Carey, 31, at home in New Jersey waiting for a construction job to start. A committed member and shop steward of Local 608, the most Irish union in New York City, Carey had been working for several weeks in the vicinity of the World Trade Center, ironically on the new Irish Famine Memorial in Battery Park, where he was foreman.
When his sister Mairead, a journalist in Ireland, called him with the news of what happened. Carey grabbed his construction gear and headed straight for the city, knowing that a group of workers from his union had been sent to the World Trade Center that day.
Getting to Ground Zero was not easy. The bridges and tunnels to Manhattan were all closed, as were the major highways from New Jersey to the city. Read more.
If you have a 9/11 story you would like to share with us please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you.