The First Word:
Window on the World
On July 11, 2001 we gathered at the Windows on the World on top of the World Trade Center for our annual Wall Street 50 bash. The guests, senior members and a smattering of women excepting, were mostly young men in their 30s. I talked to John Ryan Jr. and kidded him about his mother giving him a hard time over the Hawaiian shirt he wore for his bio pic.
Ryan and his friends, rising stars on Wall Street, were excited about the Aer Lingus Premier Class tickets they would each receive as part of their honorarium. For some it would be their first visit to Ireland — an opportunity to take a golfing trip with the guys. Others would bring their wives and kids. One young man told me how he had taken his girlfriend to Ireland the year before and proposed to her. Our keynote speaker for the evening, Denis Kelleher, talked about what his choices would have been had he stayed in Kerry, and how he decided to emigrate to New York rather than work in the local creamery. Kelleher began his career as a messenger at Merrill Lynch and quickly moved up the ranks, eventually founding his own company.
As Kelleher spoke, telling us of the people on the Street who helped him as a young immigrant to find his feet, the sun hung low over New York Harbor, the light reflecting off the Statue of Liberty and the roofs of the buildings on Ellis Island, the old immigrant processing station.
America has been good to Kelleher, as it has been for so many hopeful immigrants, who have sought a better future for their children.
It was a real Irish party — a magic night that has been made even more so in memory by what happened just two short months later. As we go to press on another Wall Street 50 issue, I remember Joe Berry and his wife as they said their good nights — how they held hands as they walked away. The next time I would hear of Berry was reading his obituary in The New York Times. It mentioned what a great father he was. How even though the kids were grown, the family all still went on vacations together. It also mentioned how he had been honored as an Irish American on Wall Street.
We have lost others too who were there that night: Joe Lenihan and Chris Duffy. I have a photo of Joe as he accepted his Waterford Crystal Harp, and another of Chris Duffy standing beside his father, John.
Joe Lenihan’s motto was “the harder you work, the luckier you get.” It’s a philosophy that Maetinez Arrazela probably embraced. Arrazela, from Mexico, worked at Windows on the World. His American dream was to send $600 home each month so that his children might be educated. That dream died with him on September 11, and as he was an undocumented immigrant, his family will not receive any aid from New York.
It is moot to say the world has forever been changed by September 11. As we live now, in a society that is constantly on the alert for further attacks, the Irish government has begun sending anti-radiation pills to every household in Ireland. Potassium iodine tablets are supposed to prevent the thyroid gland from accumulating radioactive iodine (the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is reported to have caused at least 2,000 cases of thyroid cancer).
Britain’s nuclear plant, Sellafield, is located in Wales, just across the Irish Sea and many feel it is responsible for the high rates of cancer on Ireland’s East Coast. The Irish have long had to contend with the plant’s dumping of millions of gallons of radioactive waste into the Irish Sea, and now they must fear a terrorist attack on the plant. A recent EU report says an accident at Sellafield could cause greater damage than the Chernobyl explosion in the Ukraine in 1986. That same year Sellafield had at least four serious leaks of radioactive material.
Ali Hewson has seen the devastation that nuclear fallout can cause. Interviewed by Frank Shouldice, she tells us about the Chernobyl Children’s Project she helped found with Adi Roche. Born to mothers exposed to the radiation, many of the children suffer from horrendous deformities, and have been abandoned by families unable to cope.
Recently Ali and her organization started a postcard campaign targeting Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair, to put pressure on the British Government to close Sellafield.
Meanwhile, her musician husband Bono, the frontman for U2, is on a mission to end Third World Debt. He recently persuaded U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Paul O’Neill, to take a trip to Africa with him. Frank Shouldice also brings you that story.
In an age when celebrity is worshipped, we can be proud of this Irish couple and their vision of the world as a safer, better place.
Windows on the World is no longer there but we must hold on to that vision of the world. ♦