April May 2002 Issue – Irish America https://irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine Mon, 15 Jul 2019 20:00:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 82361074 A Warm Irish Welcome in Newfoundland https://irishamerica.com/2002/04/a-warm-irish-welcome-in-newfoundland/ https://irishamerica.com/2002/04/a-warm-irish-welcome-in-newfoundland/#respond Mon, 01 Apr 2002 09:00:46 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=43525 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.

Taylor, a descendant of an Irish migration to Newfoundland that is centuries old, is a mother of two living in a mobile home. Hannah, born in Monaghan but an American for 43 years, would soon lean on Sandra and others for support as she and her husband held a grim vigil waiting for news of their son Kevin, a New York firefighter.

“I wish I could have done more,” Sandra said of the fretful days as the O’Rourkes waited for news of their son. “It was just so hard on the heart, I felt so sorry for them. All I could do was talk with them, serve them meals and offer my home for showers and laundry.”

Says Hannah: “I’ll never forget for the rest of my life the way those people welcomed us with open arms. They put us up in the Royal Canadian Legion building and brought food and blankets and opened their homes to us.”

She means that literally.

“`You just take whatever you need,’ they’d say to us. `Use the shower, have something to eat, we’ll leave the door open when we go to work.’ They were unbelievable.”

And they prayed for Kevin. The parish priest spent time with the O’Rourkes while the couple tried fruitlessly to get home.

“We tried every connection we had through family and friends. And we kept up hope all the time.”

They had to return to Dublin before another flight to New York and then at home, like so many families during that period, they learned their son had not made it out.

“Kevin was with the Rescue 2 Company in Brooklyn,” said Hannah. “He had wanted to be a firefighter all his life. He started at 11 as a volunteer here in Lawrence, helping around the station. It was his life for 18 years.”

It was against this sad backdrop that the O’Rourkes learned about the deep Irish tradition in Newfoundland, an often-maligned province of Canada that harbors some of the world’s friendliest people.

They call Newfoundland `The Rock’ in the rest of Canada, but it is a hard place not to like for those who take the time to get there.

Passengers await their flight home at a local church in Gander, Newfoundland.

As the accidental tourists in the wake of September 11 found, the people who live there simply astound with their natural grace.

The unique culture of Newfoundland has its roots in Waterford, Wexford, Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary and Cork. The descendants of waves of emigration from those counties in the late 1700s and early 1800s, are soft-hearted folks who have tamed a hard, hard land.

Their generosity of spirit played out gloriously when almost 7,000 air passengers, mostly American, landed in the small town of Gander and villages of Gambo and Lewisporte in northeast Newfoundland for four days.

The island is North America’s last landfall in the Atlantic before Ireland, and planes were diverted there as the skies of North America were cleared after the outrages in New York and Washington. They landed in Gander, once a refueling stop for trans-Atlantic flights, and passengers received a welcome people still talk about six months later.

A bulletin board at the Legion hall is filled with thank you notes and Christmas cards from passengers of the Aer Lingus flight, including one from the O’Rourkes.

“To all the wonderful people at the Legion. God bless you all for the kindness you have shown us. You are the greatest. We will be back to see you next year for a holiday and to meet you all. Love,” Hannah and Dennis O’Rourke, Lawrence, N.Y.

The Legionnaires organized an Irish evening for the passengers the night before they left, with the Irish music you will hear all over the island, dancing and as one of the Legion members, Wally Crummell, noted, perhaps a drink or two was taken.

“All the people who were here thoroughly enjoyed themselves, there’s no doubt about that,” says Crummell. “They absolutely refused to leave when they were scheduled to go to the Salvation Army Camp. They were right up in arms about it because they didn’t want to leave this place at all.”

Crummell shows off the wall of cards and messages from stranded passengers.

“To all the kind and hospitable people of Gander and especially those involved with the Royal Canadian Legion. You all have demonstrated to us the true meaning of the word charity. These have been especially trying times for everybody but for what you guys have done, you all deserve medals for. Many thanks.” Alan, Jennifer and Thomas Collister, Ireland.

“Your hospitality will never be forgotten. Gander is now an independent state of Ireland.” Andrew Kilfeather, Dublin.

“Words can not express how grateful we are for the hospitality and kindness the people of Gander have shown us during our stay. We will never forget it. It made our (unforeseen) visit to Gander most memorable. We hope to come back some day for a longer visit when we can repay some of the hospitality received. There will always be a welcome for you in Ireland!” Margaret O’Leary, Dublin and Cork.

“Gander, we will never forget you for all your help and support.” Tony Cudmore, Dublin.

“To the people of Gander: Not only did you guys respond to exceptional circumstances with efficiency and courtesy, but your kindness, unfailing helpfulness and generosity of spirit was reassuring and very touching. Thank you so much for your help.” Karl Fawen, Ireland and Australia.

Over in Lewisporte, a village which ships supplies to Labrador, the mainland of Newfoundland, residents part were just as gracious.

Maisie Quinlan went around to the churches helping with clothing for passengers whose luggage was still aboard the planes. “I’m a seamstress and we had to find clothes for these people and make them fit.” So she hemmed and took out waists and never asked for a penny. “Heavens, no, that wouldn’t be the neighborly thing to do. Those people needed help.”

Maisie said that seeing all the people walking around town was sad because of the circumstances, but exciting in another way because it brought so much life to her little town.

Says Peggy O’Leary of Gander, who contributed clothes and toys to the children off the flights, “It was heartbreaking because some of these people had lost loved ones but it was hectic too. Uptown was alive with people.”

In the little town of Gambo, residents pulled out all the stops to help the stranded.

“They restored my faith in humanity,” says Cindy Richter of Illinois, a passenger on United Airlines 929. “Their kindness and generosity turned it around for us. After the terrible things that had happened, they showed us all the good there is in the world.”

At Christmas, Richter’s spirits were lifted once again when a Christmas card postmarked Gambo arrived.

“It was from Melva Warren,” she said in an interview. “She’s an elderly woman and a widow in her late 70s. She took us to her home for a shower the first day. She was really sweet. We sat and chatted in her home and over the next few days I saw her as she helped out in the kitchen at the church.

“I sent her a thank you for her hospitality. It was very thoughtful that she kept my address and added me to her Christmas list. It’s a card I will keep.”

Scores of these testimonials found their way into newspapers in the days after September 11. Scores more appear in web sites devoted to the experience in Newfoundland, a rugged land that counted Irish fishers as part of the first settlements here.

The Irish Loop drive south of the capital of St. John’s pays tribute to these pioneers, taking you into the heart of Irish Newfoundland. You travel past a series of magnificent bays guarded by rocky islands, little harbors where some of the fishing fleet has converted to eco-touring, and get an interesting glimpse of history at Ferryland, where the Colony Avalon archaeological dig is under way.

The dig site is hard by the sea, as you’d expect, and archaeologists here are carefully peeling back the layers of life, finding evidence of the Beothuk Indians from the early 1500s but mostly the first known fishing colony.

It was settled in the 16th century as a project of Lord Baltimore, who eventually turned his attention to Maryland.

The Irish migrations to Newfoundland began around 1675, according to a history researched by Memorial University in St. John’s. It, and the associated provisions trade, represent the oldest and most enduring connections between Ireland and Canada.

Ships from the English West Country called in to ports along Ireland’s south coast to collect food and servants for the transAtlantic fishery.

“These migrations were seasonal or temporary,” the history outlines. “Most Irish migrants were young men working on contract for English merchants and planters. They served for a summer or two, occasionally longer, and then went home. It was a significant migration, peaking in the 1770s and 1780s when more than 100 ships and 5,000 men cleared Irish ports for the fishery.

“The exodus from Ulster to America excepted, it was the most substantial movement of Irish across the Atlantic in the 18th century.”

Virtually from its inception, a small number of young Irish women joined the migration. They tended to stay and marry Irish male migrants. Seasonal and temporary migrations slowly evolved into emigration and the formation of permanent Irish family settlements in Newfoundland, the history notes.

“This pattern intensified with the collapse of the old migratory cod fishery after 1790. An increase in Irish immigration, particularly of women, between 1800-1835, and the related natural population growth, helped transform the social, demographic, and cultural character of Newfoundland.

“They created a distinctive subculture through the 18th century that is still evident. Almost all were Catholic. Many spoke only Irish on arrival, or distinctive varieties of English. Elements of material culture — agricultural folkways, vernacular and ecclesiastical architecture, for example — endured to this century, and trace elements remain. But the strange new world of a commercial cod fishery, a harsh winter climate, and the presence of so many English transformed their lives; their descendants emerged as full-fledged Newfoundlanders, a unique culture in modern North America.”

The welcoming nature of this culture was celebrated widely as passengers stranded in Newfoundland found their way home. Cheryl Drake of Delta Flight 37 turned the experience into an address delivered on Sunday, September 16 at Friendship United Methodist Church in Wyoming, Ohio.

“I had the honor of spending two and a half days with the richest people in the world — the people of Gambo, Newfoundland,” she offered. “The people of Gambo are rich in God-given talents. Whether it’s their scrumptious cooking, their warm smiles or their gentle spirits. They were always asking, `How are you doing? Is there anything you need? Do you want a warm shower…come to my house to get refreshed.’

“They opened their fire houses, schools, churches, community centers, Salvation Army halls — any facility that had ample square footage, a kitchen, and restroom facilities.

“Many times my fellow travelers and I searched for ways to express our appreciation. What could we do to repay them for all of their kindness? They were humble when we offered them money. One of the flight attendants came up with what I think is the best suggestion — pay it forward. Whenever we have a chance to help others and can extend to them the generosity that the people of Gambo extended to us, we’ll be, in turn, expressing our thanks for what we have received.”

Passengers from the stranded flights pick up essentials donated by the community.

In the larger town of Gander, townsfolk like Scott Cook were initially swamped by sheer numbers but viewed it with bemusement after they had handled the mass visit.

“It’s been a hell of a week here in Gander,” he e-mailed a passenger’s website. “The stories are amazing. We had 38 aircraft with a total of 6,656 people drop by for coffee. They stayed for three or four days.

“Our population is just under 10,000, so you can imagine the logistics involved in giving each of these people a place to sleep and a hot meal three times a day.

“Many of us spent our time bringing people home so they could get a shower or, once the rain started on the third day, driving them to the mall or sightseeing to relieve their boredom. The diversity of the people who have been in my car and in my shower over the past few days is pretty wild.

“You should have seen the look on my little girl’s face when three Muslim women came home with me for a shower. With their robes, she could only see their faces, hands and feet. Their hands and feet were covered with Henna paint and two of them didn’t speak English.

“There were also immigrants from all over the world. They all slept side by side in schools and church halls. Except the Irish, of course! A flight from Ireland was put up at a couple of local drinking establishments! The Royal Canadian Legion and the Elks Club.

“You should have been here, but of course, there wouldn’t have been room,” he laughs.

That is the Newfie way, make a joke about a situation that bent the area’s resources almost to breaking. What amazed everyone was how an area ill-prepared for so many guests mobilized so quickly, so well and with so much empathy.

Gander residents rushed to the airport as word of the situation spread. So much traffic crowded the two-kilometer road leading to the runway, that security was put in place to keep it clear.

Meantime, people on the planes, most of whom had never heard of the province, also had very little information, if any, about the events that were unfolding just a country away.

Benoit Strauven of Belgium was flying from Belgium to New York when he heard the news of what had transpired in the United States.

“The pilot came on when we diverted our route to Gander,” he explained. “First he said that the airspace was closed and that we were going to Canada. Then once we were on the ground, he told us about the attacks and not to be overwhelmed.”

Strauven recorded the pilot’s announcement on his mobile phone. “It’s difficult to comprehend, but there has been a terrorist attack in New York,” the pilot said over the intercom to his passengers. “We have a limited amount of information, but from what we’ve been able to gather listening to various radios up here, two hijacked commercial airliners were flown into the World Trade Center, both towers, and a third one was flown into the Pentagon.

“We really don’t have any more information than that,” he continued. “Obviously you can imagine the damage. So as a precaution, they’ve shut down the entire U.S. air system, air traffic control, all aircraft bound to the U.S. and all aircraft within the U.S.

“As soon as we are passed on any more information, we’ll certainly give that to you. Again, we’ve been listening to this for the past hour and everyone is doing everything they can.

“We just ask for your patience. We’ll do what we can, and this thing will be unfolding for quite some time.”

Paul Andrews, a flight engineer, said the crew of the aircraft he was on first heard of the attack on a radio chatter.

“We tuned into the BBC, and everybody sat there and said this can’t be happening,” he explained. “We were on the airplane for more than 20 hours as the government assembled everything.”

Once arrangements for food, shelter and security had been made by volunteers, airport security and various agencies like the Red Cross and the town of Gander, passengers were slowly taken off their flights. The influx of strangers then faced a tedious and meticulous process of being screened and searched by a contingent of Royal Canadian Mounted Police and immigration officers.

At about 3:30 p.m. the following day, all the passengers had been screened and registered with the Red Cross. They were then boarded on buses and driven to various locations throughout Gander, Gambo, Lewisporte and Glenwood by striking bus drivers who stepped off the picket lines to lend their support.

The Lewisporte-Gander School Board canceled classes and closed three schools in Gander, three in Lewisporte and one each in Gambo and Glenwood to accommodate the stranded strangers. The College of the North Atlantic, which is the provincial college, various churches, centers, hotels, and camps throughout the district also opened their doors to those with no where else to go.

When the passengers were settled into the makeshift shelters, many flocked to television sets to gather information on the days events. Expressions ranged from tears shed to utter shock as first-time viewers clutched friends and family as they watched the news.

“It’s so terrible,” commented Lady Mayor Petra Roth of Frankfurt, Germany who was among those stranded in Gander. “It’s an attack against civilization.”

Civilians in Gander began to pull together to help those affected by the situation. Donations from around the community poured in and included hundreds of cots, which were set up for beds in school gymnasiums. Gym mattresses were thrown on floors for a more comfortable sleep, and church pews were transformed into temporary sleeping quarters as well. About 10,000 pounds of bedding, sleeping bags and pillows were brought in by residents or pulled from store shelves whose owners donated the goods.

Passangers from the Aer Lingus flight outside the Royal Canadian Legion Hall.

Stores and banks opened early each morning to accommodate passengers. Children’s and adult clothing were brought to the shelters in large garbage bags for those needing clothing. Free toiletries including razors, soap and toothpaste were distributed to people left without luggage, and the James Paton Memorial Hospital in Gander established clinics to aid passengers who were stranded without medical supplies.

Canned goods, fruits and vegetables also poured in from local grocery stores and area residents. People as far away as Twillingate, a small fishing community about two hours north of Gander, made various trays of sandwiches and pots full of soup to feed their hungry company.

The culinary cooking students at the College of the North Atlantic were given the opportunity to hone their skills in the large campus kitchen. They prepared many dishes for their visitors and were told by some that the meals were better than those of expensive restaurants in Paris.

Wanda Simms worked in the cafeteria of the College of the North Atlantic campus and served an average of 400 people per meal.

“They’re surprisingly happy. Considering they’ve spent so much time on the plane, they’re really pleasant,” Ms. Simms commented during the first day of the passengers’ stay.

“I think they’re overwhelmed,” added volunteer Lorraine Dally.

Hour after hour, the many volunteers from Gander and outside communities cared for the passengers. Some spent days on their feet with no rest as they aided any way they could.

“We just had to come in and help them out,” commented Ruby Newhook who was one of many to volunteer her time at the Lions Club in Gander. “One man said to me, `I thought us Texans were hospitable, but man, we can’t beat this.'”

Kevin Lewis, an aircraft maintenance student at the local college, said he was there “just to put a smile on people’s faces and help them enjoy where they are.”

While the majority of the passengers enjoyed their stay in Gander, they passed the time glued to television sets located throughout the community, or by exploring the town’s sites and walking trails.

The weather made it easy for people to flock to the lawns outside many of the shelters to read, play catch, or just enjoy the sun. Local entertainment was provided to lift the spirits of the foreigners.

Town streets were packed with thousands of pedestrians who strolled the roads during the day in search of phones, stores and diversions. The local phone company even connected 50 telephone lines outside their office building for passengers to use to call home, free of charge.

Every few hours, people could be spotted boarding shuttle buses for the return trip to the shelters after spending time in shops and at local tourist sites. As the days rolled on, passengers were seen hitch-hiking around town after word spread that passing motorists often stopped to offer rides.

Anthony Collins of Arlington, Virginia was one of those impressed by such gestures and wrote to the Arlington Sun Gazette about his experience.

“Irina and I would walk around the town, and numerous times strangers would stop and offer a ride or whatever help we needed. People would always greet us with a smile,” he said. “The spirit of warmth and friendship was simply remarkable.”

Residents also offered their sympathy to the many who became a large part of the community. The red, white and blue hung half-mast next to the Canadian and Newfoundland flags outside many government buildings, not-for-profit organizations and private homes.

But through the midst of the turmoil and despair, something special was occurring between the strangers and the people of Gander.

“The support, the care and the concern has been tremendous,” said one flight attendant. “I know from my experience that this is a great place with great people. I will always have a connection to Gander because of the kindness that has been shown.”

Muriel Moorcroft also made a connection that week. As owner of Moor-crafts and gifts, a local craft store, she saw numerous travelers walk through the door of her shop and offered her assistance wherever possible.

One couple from Italy who were on their honeymoon were among those Mrs. Moorcroft and her husband Herbert lent a hand to. When they learned of the newlyweds misfortune during such a special time in their lives, they offered them a place to stay in their own Gander home.

“We thought, `What if it was us in that predicament?'” said Mrs. Moorcroft. “They were amazed because they had never been in a home in this part of the world.”

The Moorcrofts have been keeping in contact with the couple by e-mail, and have exchanged presents.

“We were part of their wedding, they felt,” said Mrs. Moorcroft. “They even sent me what they gave their guests at their wedding and wanted us to have it. It was just unique to meet someone like that, and you just felt a special bond to them even though they weren’t with us very long.”

Leaving Gander on the flight back to Dublin.

The unselfishness of people like Mrs. Moorcroft hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Thousands of dollars has been sent by passengers, airlines and people who heard about what transpired, to the various places that offered their assistance.

“We keep telling these people that we did this because we care about people,” said Gander Mayor Claude Elliott. “We didn’t do it to be rewarded, but they want to return some of the hospitality showed them and they’re working on ways to do it.”

Arlington County in Virginia officially recognized the people of Gander with a proclamation in light of comments made by country residents who stayed in the town during the crisis.

U.S. ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci made a special trip to the province’s capital, St. John’s, to publicly thank Newfoundlanders for the generosity they showed to the more than 13,000 passengers who landed on the island.

Lufthansa airlines of Germany said a plane will be named after Gander in recognition of its acts of kindness. Various media have also appeared in the community over the last several months, and an influx of e-mails, cards and letters continue to pour in to the local newspaper and town hall.

One such piece of correspondence from Barbara and Kevin O’Brien of Ridgewood, New Jersey, who were heading home from Paris, reads:

“All of us who stayed at the Gander campus of the College of the North Atlantic (a four-star hotel) were astounded by the unparalleled care we were given.

“Everyone’s kindness and friendliness, not to mention fabulous food, cozy beds, nature walks, and rides into town, amount to the best experiences of our lives. Thanks again to the entire community. It seems to be made up of saints and angels.”

The feel-good story may also bear some practical fruit for Newfoundland, long an economically-depressed area.

The province’s tourism body has been receiving messages from Americans asking for tourist information.

They’re looking at visiting Gander and Gambo, attracted by the stories of the kind residents and reports of Newfoundland’s rugged beauty.

And some of the passengers, like Cindy Richter’s friends on UA 929, are talking about reunions.

Though most of Canada has already woken to Newfoundland’s charms, it seems Americans will newly discover that this island is a slice of Ireland closer to home. ♦

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The Ironworkers https://irishamerica.com/2002/04/the-ironworkers/ https://irishamerica.com/2002/04/the-ironworkers/#respond Mon, 01 Apr 2002 09:00:30 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=43303 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.”

Hanging from buildings and bridges, ironworkers had a bird’s-eye view of the planes as they hit the Twin Towers, and they rushed to help. Assembling at the union hall on West 42nd Street, many grew frustrated as they tried to get to the site. Some, like McCormack, made it through. Once there they had to contend with a landscape of misshapen metal formerly known as the north tower. Billowing smoke clouded their vision and the smell of burning flesh and melted plastic weaved a cruel scent around them. “It was like I’d stepped into a horror movie,” said Denis Milton as he and the other ironworkers, brandishing their cutting torches and gas and air tanks, their gloves and goggles, began the task of cutting and lifting debris.

“We were in the office when we heard it,” said Jimmy Mahoney who at 39 is young in ironworking terms. “So me and Bobby Benesh and Denis Milton and Pete Creegan crammed into a car. Course we couldn’t get down so I jumped out and walked.”

Brendan McCormack.

Maloney had a job to do. He had to organize how the operation would go. “It was chaotic,” he says, remembering the loud crack, and the ghostly image of Tower 1 as it fell. “I was unlucky,” he says, “I saw both go down.” Dressed in a business suit, Mahoney was ill-fitted for work. So, he borrowed boots from the National Guard and a welding jacket. It was three days before he stopped to consider the pain the boots inflicted on his feet. “I was standing there trying to get something done with the EMS and the Mayor’s office and they were taking dinner orders,” he smiles sadly. “That’s not what ironworkers do.”

Meanwhile, Creegan, a business agent from Local 580, was back at the union hall calling his wife Claudine. That night he drove upstate to collect his gear. For the following days, Creegan and the ironworkers caught sleep when they could, often on the floor of the union hall. “The guys came back up that first night and they were covered with soot,” recalls Creegan. “We went down to the West Side Highway Bridge. We had to get it moved, there was a firetruck underneath. They thought they were still alive in there. When I wound up on that bridge, I saw things I never thought I’d see in my life. So many body parts…” His voice trails off and he is unable to continue for the images clouding his head. “I don’t like talking about it,” he says.

The workers returned day after day to cut away the twisted metal skeletons of the towers, even when the rain turned the powdered concrete into slippery chunks. Belief that there were many buried in the rubble just waiting for a hand to touch them, diluted the horror of torn flesh, a scalp, the hair matted with blood, and allowed them to continue. Sporadically, a search and rescue dog would smell something, sit by his trainer and bark. When that happened the workers stopped and stood clutching their tools with faint hope that someone was still alive. Within minutes they’d realize it was nothing, and return to work.

Some of the wreckage that the ironworkers faced at Ground Zero.

It was a dangerous task. “You never knew where the metal would fall,” said Creegan, whose father was also an ironworker. “You just hoped it would fall the way you wanted.”

“When you have that amount of steel and it is in danger, you have to remove the heavy stuff in case there is anybody underneath,” said McCormack, a twelve-year veteran ironworker out of Local 580. McCormack used to play football with one of the victims, Damien Meehan, a financial worker. Together they kicked the ball around the Good Shepherd field in the Bronx. As he toiled down on the rubble, he never once allowed himself to think of that. “It was hard down there. I cannot even fully describe it to you,” he said thoughtfully. “There have been bodies, body bags, but you gotta put that into perspective. It’s a sense of duty, a sense of pride that keeps us going.” And the hope of finding a survivor. “There’s slim chance that somebody underneath is still breathing but you gotta keep hoping,” he said at the time.

When the tragedy occurred he left his job to volunteer. “I’ll go back to that whenever I’m finished down below. I’ll stay as long as the effort lasts,” he said in September. He stayed a month and a half, until contractors approached all the volunteers, telling them that if they weren’t employed by one of the firms hired by the city to clear out the debris, they had to leave.

The Building Trades Employers’ Association (BTEA) and the Building &Construction Trades Council (BCTC) contracted people, equipment and whatever else was necessary to assist in the cleanup and rescue operation. Soon after the tragedy, they were asking the unions to regulate the effort so other jobs in the city could be done. The ironworkers went back to their jobs but some continued to go down to Ground Zero in the evenings. “It was tiring getting used to those hours, but I felt I had to be down there. It kind of stayed with you after you went from it. You didn’t forget what you saw. It was difficult to adjust,” said McCormack, who is married with a baby, Emmett age two. He and his wife are awaiting the birth of twins. He admits that the ironworkers still think every day about what they saw in those first weeks. For one month, the effort was a rescue operation. Cutting beams with torches and hooking chains onto iron so that small cranes could lift seventy-ton pieces away, the ironworkers moved with care.

Despite the hazardous conditions the ironworkers continued work for 24-hour shifts in an attempt to find survivals.

In the first couple of weeks, there was no such thing as safety considerations. The effort was frantic and urgent. “We were just trying to get to survivors,” explained Creegan. “You took more risks, sure. But you knew there was someone looking out for you.”

They cut, they worked on the bucket brigade, passing debris back to the rear of the line, and they fell to their knees, digging through the debris and lumps of wet dust for any signs of life.

Business manager of the ironworkers union Local 580, Denis Lusardi (affectionately known as Denis O’Lusardi by the predominantly Irish guys in the union) said that what the ironworkers did was not any different from what they do on every other day. “They do their jobs the same, they just change the focus,” he said proudly of his men. “We did the face of those buildings, and the hoisting, the rigging, the welding and the staircases. We knew the physics of it.” The history of the World Trade Center and the history of the Ironworkers is intertwined.

Three decades ago, the New York Ironworkers erected the towers and after the collapse they dismantled them. Just before Christmas they pulled away the last façade of the World Trade Center. What had once been a symbol of American freedom and American might was removed with a tenderness for buildings only ironworkers possess.

Jim Mahoney.

When the towers were being built, many of those tough guys riding high on the beams were Irish. One guy is remembered as saying, “Fellas, on a clear day, I can see Carrauntuohill.” Seeing Ireland’s highest mountain may not have been all that impossible for these dreamers. Even if on the clearest day from the observation deck on Two World Trade Center it was possible to only see 45 miles in every direction.

Jack Doyle spent seven years on the north tower. Doyle from Local 40 is 57 and almost at retirement age. He was 26 in 1970 when he began the work. “There were days when we were up really high. You couldn’t see the ground below when it was foggy,” remembered Doyle. He described the sound of the 50-foot steel beams coming up to the workers from below. “You would only hear it at first moving up the outside and then you would see the load come out of the clouds. It was ghostly.” Doyle made foreman when the work reached the 28th floor. He was one of the first to pitch the American flag on what was then the world’s tallest building.

For three long years, Denis Milton, 56, a 35-year veteran of Local 580, like Doyle rode the scaffolding against the steel beams of the emerging World Trade Center. “It was a beautiful sight, seeing the sunrise and then the sunset from those beams,” he recalls. With 400 men Milton constructed the core of the towers and then the skin. Working on towers one, two, five and six as well as the Marriott hotel (then called the Vista), Milton was one of the lucky ones. “Everybody wanted to be on that job,” he says. “That morning it happened, I only thought about all the people, I never thought about all the years on it.”

Paddy Blaine.

Constructed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in the early 1970s, the World Trade Center towers cost $400 million. They were the best known examples of tube buildings and were composed mainly of steel and aluminum. The closely spaced columns and beams inside each tower formed a steel tube that, together with an internal core, withstood the tremendous wind loads that affect such tall buildings. Each tower swayed approximately three feet from true center in strong wind. The towers were built on six acres of landfill and the foundation of each tower had to extend more than 70 feet below ground level to rest on solid bedrock.

On Friday, February 26, 1993, a bomb exploded in the underground garage of One World Trade Center, creating a 22-foot-wide, five-story-deep crater. Six people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured. Hundreds of ironworkers were put back on the job to repair the damage. The towers were cleaned, repaired, and reopened in less than one month.

Surprisingly, the Twin Towers were designed to withstand being struck by an airplane. But it was the fires from the crashes on September 11 that weakened the infrastructure of the building. The collapsed upper floors created too much weight for the lower floors to bear.

From the 2,000-degree Fahrenheit heat generated by the explosion of 10,000 gallons of jet fuel in each plane, the steel perimeter of each tower began to warp and the 110-story towers imploded. Describing the collapse as something akin to a peeling orange, Milton says the skin peeled out onto the ground and the core collapsed straight down. To bystanders on the streets of New York it looked like the towers just went up in smoke. “The heat of the fire damaged the floors. Once the floors collapsed they compacted down one by one on top of each other.” From his vantage-point in Brooklyn, Milton grew concerned. “I knew there wasn’t too much intermediate steel,” he says. “I called 911 to tell them that those buildings were coming down.”

Tommy Milton.

By the next day, Milton joined hundreds of ironworkers at the site to help. He stayed three full days seeing thing he says he could scarcely believe. “It was so eerie,” he recalls. “We saw nobody but we saw the footprints left there in the dust.”

At Milton’s age and with his experience he could retire. “I guess I could but I won’t,” he says affably. “I’m too young.” Milton, who was born in the Bronx into a New York Irish family, takes so much pride in his job that the very idea of not being an ironworker scares him. For almost 200 years, the Milton clan has worked as ironworkers ever since they climbed from the boat. He says if he ever does get a chance, he might visit the land of his forefathers. Since September 11, many, like Milton, are planning to revisit their lives.

Five weeks before the attack, a crew of five ironworkers were laid off from the World Trade Center. On the crew had been Denis’s nephew Tommy Milton who had worked on the towers for 17 years; his friend Liam Footy who had worked there almost 14 years on and off; Richie Flaherty who was there nine years and Jimmy Holly and Paddy Blaine who were relative newcomers.

Milton would call Footy whenever they needed an extra worker on the crew. “There was always two guys but some jobs required more,” said Irishman Footy, 44, a Woodlawn native, from his home in Fort Montgomery, New York. Against the skyline on any day the small crew of friends who rode carpool to work, could be seen working on the looming towers. Footy got laid off on June 5. In late July, the other guys got laid off. “The contract for the maintenance crew was held by Turner Construction. In July, the contract came up for renegotiation. The guys were told they would be back on September 1.

“I guess paperwork held it up, thank God,” says Footy knowing that had they still had the contract, he and his friends would have been somewhere on the outside of the World Trade Center at 8:45 a.m. on September 11.

Thirty-nine-year-old father of three, Tommy Milton, who had been on top of the World Trade Center and all around it as part of the maintenance crew for 17 years, had his own near miss on September 11. He said that had the crew been brought back, there was only one job they would have been working at on September 11 — the roof of tower one. “I don’t think about that,” he said. “I remember when I saw it up on 43rd Street on the Times Square screen my first thought was for my friend who worked in Cantor Fitzgerald. I knew he was in trouble.”

Pete Creggan.

While working 16 hours every day with the rest of the ironworker crew cutting steel, lowering rescuers into holes, and removing personal mementos for the following gruesome week, Milton only ever thought about his friend Tommy Dowd, who never made it.

Milton believes rebuilding New York is the only way forward. “They try to knock us down but we will stand up,” he says.

Before the attacks the crew looked after any work needed at the towers. When new tenants came in and required demolition, they demolished. They ensured that areas were secured from civilians and they cleared the way for the window washer machines. “It took 40 minutes to do a run and every day there would be countless runs,” says Footy. “One man, Rocco Camage, was thirty years on the job and passed away just before the attack.”

All Footy hopes now is that he will be there if they decide to rebuild the World Trade Center, and that his father lives long enough to go back to Ireland with his grandchildren. As he leaves the conversation, Footy is mumbling. “Funny that no matter how well you knew that building you could always get lost.”

The night after the towers collapsed a group of special agents traveled to Ground Zero. Detailed to direct traffic in Lower Manhattan, Hinda Perdreaux, Special Agent in Charge at the Bureau of Diplomatic Security of the U.S. Department of State, and her agents were mesmerized by what they witnessed.

“What I saw was the ironworkers reporting for work in the worst of circumstances ready to support firefighters and police in their rescue efforts,” described Perdreaux.

“Day after day they came and were always kind and compassionate and gave the sense that they embodied the true American spirit.” Amazed by their commitment, Perdreaux, whose grandmother married an Irishman, says the ironworkers, who often had to walk miles to get to Ground Zero because of the debris, and pass through countless checkpoints, never once complained.

“Burdened with equipment, they worked until dawn to untangle the melted steel and burn through the massive rubble to find any survivors,” she says. They seldom found any. But there was one. Bobby Benesh, a 22-year veteran of the ironworkers, found the last survivor of the World Trade Center attacks.

Bobby Benesh.

Genelle Guzman, a 31-year-old Port Authority worker, had been at her job on the 64th floor of Tower 1 when the airliner came crashing through. She and her co-workers evacuated and reached the 13th floor stairs. The second plane hit and Guzman fell 13 floors to lay sandwiched between concrete pillars and a staircase for 27 hours. Guzman was ready to die when she heard noises. She yelled out. Someone answered back. She grabbed a piece of concrete not far from her hand and in desperation knocked the stair. Benesh atop the rubble heard the knocking. Guzman pushed her hand through a small crack and Benesh kneeled down to hold it. He said, “I got you.” She said, “Thank God.”

Guzman was the last of just five people to be found still breathing in the rubble. But it was days before the ironworkers acknowledged that hope of further rescue was fading.

By late September, 115,755 tons of debris had been removed. The final count for those killed in the incident rounded off somewhere near 3,000. By December almost 900 sanitation workers and 250 pieces of equipment hauled away two billion pounds of steel and concrete and 14 acres of glass. By October, it had moved to cleanup. The cranes came in and the ironworkers were reduced in number. As a New Year dawned, the ironworkers were optimistic. “If they are going to rebuild it then the ironworkers will be there to rebuild it,” said McCormack. “It’s the ironworkers’ mentality that it would be a sign of weakness not to rebuild the towers bigger and better to show that the American spirit cannot be defeated,” said Lusardi proudly. “We cannot let them think they have won,” said Creegan, and the ironworkers cheered. ♦

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Fire in the Morning https://irishamerica.com/2002/04/fire-in-the-morning/ https://irishamerica.com/2002/04/fire-in-the-morning/#respond Mon, 01 Apr 2002 09:00:09 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=43610 Read more..]]> In a strange twist of fate, Ron Clifford escaped the WTC unaware that his sister and niece were on the plane that crashed into the North Tower.


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.

Despite her business success, after the birth of her daughter in 1997, Ruth became a full-time mother, devoted to the blond little girl who was the center of her and her husband, David’s, lives. She had recently returned from trips to Portugal with Juliana and was excited because the little girl had learned to ride her pony on her own.

Originally from Cork, where her father, a paper merchant, was a leading figure in business, Ruth, the only girl of five children, left for America with her mother at age 16, when her parents separated.

After college she began working for Barbizon, an institute of learning about cosmetics that has outlets all over the United States; her territory was in the south in the Birmingham, Alabama area. She became a skin care specialist, training in one of London’s top schools. When she returned to the U.S. in 1986, she opened her own spa, Clifford Classique, in the Newtown area of Boston. It was an immediate success.

In 1995 she met David McCourt, twelve years her senior, from a wealthy Connecticut family, which traced its roots back to Waterford. McCourt had inherited hi father’s gas distribution business and he and his brother had expanded it greatly. David and Ruth met through tennis-playing friends. It was love at first sight and within six months they were making plans to get hitched.

Their wedding at the Vatican was a bittersweet affair, however. Five days before the ceremony Valentine, Ruth’s beloved father, had passed away. He had just finished writing his speech for the occasion. The family decided to go ahead with the wedding anyway.

In typical fashion, Ruth had wangled an audience with the Pope for her and her new husband. She had promised an influential priest in her district that she would set up a meeting with Kate Hepburn, a family friend, if he returned the favor with the Pope.

“Done,” he’d said.

Now she was flying to a Deepak Chopra seminar on the West Coast. She was a devotee of the New Age guru as was Paige Hackel, 46, her close friend who was traveling on American Airlines Flight 11, leaving Boston at about the same time to go to Los Angeles. They had not traveled together because they had different frequent flyer programs.

The friends had spent the night before at Paige’s house planning their trip which would end with a visit to Disneyworld in Anaheim, California for Juliana.

In the car on the way to the airport, Juliana’s orange juice had spilled out of its container in Ruth’s handbag. The driver remembers that Ruth took it all in stride, her well-known ability to remain calm during crises great and small showing itself. The driver remembers an excited trio, laughing and chatting as they prepared for their long trip.

Also on board the United flight that Ruth and Juliana were on was Marwan Al-Shehi, a citizen of the United Arab Emirates who had recently attended flight school in Florida, and five other men from the Middle East, Fayez Ahmed Hassan, Ali Banihammed, Mohand Alsehri, Ahmed Alghamadi and Mamza Alghamadi.

All the men were dressed in khakis and tan tennis shirts, not unusual for a flight that would terminate in sunny California. Surprisingly, none of the men had any carry-on baggage. American

Airlines Flight 11, with Paige Hackel on board, had departed at 8:04, ten minutes before the United flight. On board were Mohammad Atta, an Egyptian with flying experience, and four other Middle Eastern men who all sat in first class.

The two planes began climbing to their scheduled altitude of 36,000 feet. At 8:37 a.m. the first sign that something was amiss came when the United flight received an unusual request from the tower asking if they could see the American flight.

“Affirmative, we have him, he looks about twenty-nine, twenty-eight thousand feet,” responded Captain Saracini. At 8:41, the United pilot, obviously now concerned about the American Airlines plane, reported, “We heard a suspicious transmission on our departure from BOS,” using the airport’s three letter code. “Sounds like someone keyed the mike and said ‘everyone remain in your seats.'”

Air traffic control began to scramble. Over Albany, New York, the American Airlines flight took a sharp left and headed due south towards New York City, well off its flight path. Then came a chilling transmission from flight attendant Amy Sweeney. she told a flight services manager at American that five hijackers were on board. She described them as being of Middle Eastern descent and stated they had stabbed two of the flight attendants. “A hijacker cut the throat of a business-class passenger,” she said “and he appears to be dead. They have just gained control of the cockpit.”

At 8:43, United Flight 175 also veered from its path over northern New Jersey. It continued south for a brief period before making a U-turn towards New York City. The nightmare had begun.

Soon after he awoke, Ruth McCourt’s brother Ron Clifford, 47, heard the sound of his phone ringing in his Glen Ridge, New Jersey home. It was his breakfast appointment, asking him if they could switch from the Marriott on Times Square to the one at the World Trade Center. He looked at his watch; it was 6:30 and the World Trade Center was actually closer than the midtown destination. Quickly he agreed. This was a very important appointment. Ron’s software company, Tradewind Net Access, specializing in E Learning, was about to close a major deal over breakfast, he hoped. As his sister Ruth had suggested, he dressed in his dark blue suit, white shirt and yellow silk tie. Ruth had told him to be sure to wear a matching hankie in the breast pocket. “You have to stand out,” she’d said.

It was a beautiful sunny day and it was his daughter Monica’s birthday. Coincidentally, she would be 11 on September 11th. He planned to come home early to help her celebrate.

He gazed out at the azure sky, a perfect autumn day, and he decided to take the train across from New Jersey, then the ferry from Hoboken to Lower Manhattan, rather than drive. That would give him time to walk around the World Trade Center. As an architect, he was endlessly fascinated with the building’s extraordinary structure, and when out-of-towners visited, his guided tour of Manhattan usually ended at the Twin Towers.

In fact, the week before, when preparing to sail off Manhattan a minor problem with the shaft of his boat had put him in contact through a friend with an engineer named Bob Dobellis. Bob fixed the shaft and they chatted about his previous job. He had just retired as the Chief Engineer at the World Trade center in charge of ventilation and heating. He had been present when the 1993 bombing carried out by Arab militants had taken place. He, in fact, was the first person into the basement after that bomb which killed 6 people.

Ron called a neighbor close to the station to find out the train timetable. The New Jersey PATH train would leave at 7:30 sharp. He would make it easily. When he reached the Hoboken ferry off the train he marveled at the beauty of the day. During the short hop across the Hudson to the pier he found himself praying that the meeting would go well. He and his Indonesian partner were on the verge of greatly expanding their software company, today’s breakfast meeting would be a vital step forward.

Because he used to work in the vicinity of the Word trade Center Ron knew the area well. He got off the ferry and walked the few blocks to the hotel. It had formerly been known as the Vista and he knew there had been major renovations since the change in ownership – the architect in him wanted to see the connecting lobby to the World Trade center. It was 8:30 and he had 30 minutes to fill before breakfast.

Inside he walked down the marble hallway of the Marriott and into the World Trade Center lobby, a place of soaring ceilings, dramatic light and incredible hustle and buzz. He always found it stark and very dramatic. He lingered, then was heading back through the connecting revolving door when a massive explosion rocked the building. It was 8:46 a.m.

American Flight 11, traveling 494 miles per hour with hijacker Mohammed Atta at the controls, had hit the North Tower between the 94th and 99th floor, imploding on impact, its’ 24,000 gallons of jet fuel creating a mighty fireball. On board was Paige Hackel, his sister’s best friend, and the woman Ron spent every New Year’s with.

“I remember that I smelt paraffin. I didn’t equate it with aviation fuel and I immediately thought that it must have been a tank rupture in the basement.” Suddenly the building began to shake and secondary explosions could be heard. All around him people began screaming and running. He made towards the connecting doors with the Marriott Hotel.

Then he saw a woman walking out of the haze towards him. Her hands and body were completely burnt. She was walking like Frankenstein with her arms directly in front of her because her arms were so swollen. Her face was unrecognizable, her head was bare of any hair. A hair barrette was burned into her skin. He knew immediately she was in desperate straits. She had been waiting for a bus outside the building and had run inside when a fireball had engulfed her. “The man who was next to me is dead,” she told Ron.

“I told her to sit down and I ran into the bathroom and looked around and found a plastic bag that I filled with water,” Clifford remembers. It never occurred to him to just leave the woman. “That’s not my way, not the way of my religion,” the staunch Catholic says. “I doused her with the bag of water, then I screamed repeatedly for help. I stood up, kept my eyes on her and shouted for EMS support.”

Suddenly the woman spoke, “Jesus, Sacred heart of Mary, help me,” she said. He knelt down net to her, knowing now she was Catholic, and they said a Hail Mary and then the Lord’s Prayer. Then a woman arrived with an oxygen canister and they immediately had her breathe into it.

She told him her name was Jennieann and asked him not to call her mother, who she said was too frail and ill to be told about her daughter’s condition. She gave him her boss’s name at Paine Webber brokerage house and told him she was allergic to latex and was an asthmatic. He scribbled all the details down on a notepad he found in her bag.

At this point he could hear the building shaking and groaning. Because of his architect’s training he was listening for the harmonic convergence, the vibrations coming from the building indicating how it was handling the stress and strain. He did not like what he was hearing. Then came the second massive explosion. Overhead, United Flight 175 traveling at 586 miles per hour carrying his sister Ruth and his beloved niece Juliana slammed into the South Tower between the 78th and 84th floor with incredible force. He had no idea they were on board and actually thought they had left for California a day or so before.

“I knew we had to get out of the building,” he says and he got Jennieann to her feet and asked her if she could make it. “She told me yes, so we commenced moving. I was screaming at the top of my lungs for people to get out of the way. They were so horrified when they saw her that they parted like the red Sea. Somebody shouted, ‘It’s a plane.’ Someone else, ‘It’s two planes,’ and then it finally struck me what happened.”

Because all her clothes had burnt off, a black waiter gave Clifford a large tablecloth to cover the stricken woman. Eventually they made it outside.

“It was pure carnage.” he says. Every couple of moments there was a loud thud, which he realized were people hitting the ground after jumping from the top floors. Cars, trucks and buses were ablaze or burnt out altogether. There were bodies on the street everywhere.

“The noise, that’s what I remember most,” he says now, “the awful noise and panic.” Huge girders crashed down from the buildings onto the Plaza and the bodies kept falling. “There is stuff I saw that I will have to deal with for the rest of my life,” he says.

Suddenly, out of the smoke and gloom a fireman appeared. “Run for your life,” he screamed at them. “Run, run, run.” Then Ron saw the most extraordinary sight of all: dozens of firemen rushing towards the death trap, going into the building he had just left in order to save people. “I’ve never seen such bravery,” he says now.

He crossed over the West Side Highway to the line of ambulances that were drawn up. Tenderly, he helped Jennieann to the first ambulance on the line. “You have to make it now, after all we have been through,” he told her. After Jennieann was taken away, Ron turned and saw young men on the upper floors literally skydiving off the building. He saw one couple holding hands as they fell. Everywhere a thick cover of ash and soot was descending on the living and the dead. It was sheer hell.

He made his way to a public phone in a nearby building, miraculously still working, and called his wife Bridget. She had been watching CNN when the story hit. Sick with worry, she had been trying desperately to reach him on his cell phone but all service was out. “I’m okay,” he told her. “I’ve just gone through hell but I’m okay.” His next call was to his sister Ruth, who he thought might pick up her cell phone. There was no answer. He hardly gave it a second thought.

As he spoke, bodies were still passing in the front window of the building he was in. He said to a man near him, “These buildings are coming down.” The man said, no, that he was an engineer and that the Trade Towers could withstand even airplanes crashing into them. He remembers thinking the guy must know what he is talking about.

He remembered also that the New Jersey Transit had recently announced that in the event of an emergency, trains would line up at the arrival point on the Jersey shore of the Manhattan ferries to bring people to safety. He walked to the nearby South Ferry landing and waited to board. All that was on his mind now was that he had to get home to his family.

Hundreds were waiting along with him. Women and men were on their knees praying. The sound of police and fire sirens filled the air. He was afraid they would lockdown the area before he could get out.

Luckily he managed to get on board a ferry and remembers standing with a woman from Northern Ireland when they saw the South Tower collapse in a massive plume of smoke. “This can’t be happening,” he told himself over and over.

In Jersey, he jumped on the first train and a man with a Blackberry pager told everyone that Washington too was under attack. He thought the would might very well end that day.

The train dropped him one station from his house. Finally he made it home, bedraggled, exhausted, the burnt skin of Jennieann on his shirt and suit, his tie covered in aviation fuel. He desperately wanted to take a shower to clean up.

Just as he stepped into the bathroom. Ruth’s husband, David, called with undisguised concern in his voice. He thought, but he wasn’t sure, that Ruth might have been on one of the flights. Ron remembers a sinking feeling and thinking, “Oh shit, this just couldn’t be.” For the next several hours he worked the Internet, calling up the United and American web sites. He found out from Paige Hackel’s husband, Alan, that he had been with them the night before and that a driver had picked them up that morning to drop them at their separate terminals. “I had dinner with two of the most beautiful and vivacious women in he world last night and no they’re gone,” he told Ron tearfully.

Ron still had not given up hope, but as the hours passed and he began to fully put the pieces together he know it didn’t look good. “We’re in trouble,” he told Ruth’s husband. “Jesus Christ, this can’t be happening,”

Finally confirmation of the passenger lists came from the airlines, Ruth, Juliana and Paige were all gone.

“I was numb, totally numb,” said Ron. “My brothers in Cork had been so relieved that I escaped, non of us originally thought that Ruth was involved. Then it all came out.”

He often thinks of those last moments of his sister and niece, wondering what they went through. “I think Ruth probably exemplified calmness – she would have talked to Juliana, read to her, they might have even sung a song together. She was no panicker; she was trying to control whatever she could, telling her daughter everything was fine. It wouldn’t surprise me if she had a calming impact on her fellow passengers around her too.”

After September 11, Ron says he functioned on false energy for weeks, communicating news to his family and planning a memorial service in Connecticut at the beach house that Juliana, Ruth and David had called home. Over 1200 showed up at the church. Seven hundred people attended the reception and the last song was “Galway Bay,” one of Ruth’s favorites.

A few days later after the memorial, Ron Clifford stood at the bedside of Jennieann Maffeo, the woman he had helped on the morning of September 11th. Maffeo, a 38-year-old computer analyst with Paine Webber, lived in Brooklyn with her sister, Andrea, and her elderly parents from Italy.

Now she was in the burns unit at Cornell Hospital on Manhattan’s East Side, one of the best in the world, but the nature of her horrific injuries meant it was long odds that Jennieann, now unconscious, could survive.

With him Ron Clifford brought his yellow silk tie, the one his sister Ruth had recommended he wear for his important breakfast. It was now stained with aviation fuel and he placed it gently beside Jennieann’s bed as a token of the experience they had had together. Then he lowered his head and prayed for the young woman who had so randomly come into his life under tragic circumstances on the morning of September 11. He pleaded with her to make it, to defy the odds, to make some good happen out of a horrible experience.

Her parents and sister, he found out, had been desperately looking for her after the Trade Center buildings came down, and her boss had eventually called them after he got the information Ron had written down. Jennieann had asked Ron not to call her mother because she was frail and elderly; now the family was carrying on a vigil 24 hours a day beside her bed.

Her father embraced him like a son and kissed him profusely, thanking him in heavily accented English for giving him his daughter back, no matter how briefly.

Forty days after she had been terribly burned, Jennieann gave up her fight for life. Ron had just dropped his brothers, who had come to see Ground Zero, at the airport. On the Van Wyck Expressway on the way back home from Kennedy Airport, the news of her death came over the car radio. Ron pulled over and cried his eyes out. He later received a personal letter from President George W. Bush sympathizing with his loss and commending him on his bravery in trying to save Jennieann.

He went to the wake in the shadow of the Verrazano Bridge in an old Italian neighborhood. It was very emotional, he remembers, with huge bouquets of flowers from Paine Webber where Jennieann had worked, and friends, relatives, acquaintances all breaking down into tears.

Ron Clifford (left) with his half brother, Spencer Scott, and his mother, Paula Clifford-Scott.

After the memorials for Ruth an Juliana, Ron fell apart. Totally drained, he suffered from post-traumatic stress. Luckily, he knew to go to the right people and slowly his confidence has returned.

Still it was difficult. When showering he found himself continuously scraping his feet to the point where they almost bled. His therapist told him that he was reliving the scene from outside the World Trade Center where he walked on the ashes of the dead. Ron remembered a scene from Schindler’s List, the movie about the Jewish Holocaust, that was similar to what he experienced, and suddenly he understood.

He says he’s not angry at Osama bin laden, and given his Christian forgiveness it is no surprise. He is sad, however, that people can be so misguided that they think they can come closer to God by killing other human beings.

Now his main priority is to make his business even more successful, and then to commit to the Juliana Fund, a non-profit organization he has started up to promote tolerance and understanding in children. He feels that that is what Ruth and Juliana would have wanted.

Then on a January weekend, Ruth’s husband, David, called to say that they had found some of Ruth’s belongings and that he was going to collect them. When he got there, the FBI handed David a sealed plastic bag containing Ruth’s Hermes handbag.

Overcome, David went back to his hotel room before he opened it. Inside, eerily, he found a World Trade Center ID card. Ruth had actually visited an estate planner and lawyer in the World Trade Center, one recommended by Ron the precious June, to discuss her and David’s affairs.

There was also a papal medal commemorating her wedding at the Vatican, damp and musty credit cards and a burnt and bent driver’s license. David gave the bag to Ron who took it home and placed it on a countertop in his house. He felt that Ruth and Juliana’s spirits pervaded the room after he did so. In a strange way, he felt they had come home to him. ♦

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The First Word: Friendship, Love & Loyalty https://irishamerica.com/2002/04/the-first-word-friendship-love-loyalty-2/ https://irishamerica.com/2002/04/the-first-word-friendship-love-loyalty-2/#respond Mon, 01 Apr 2002 08:59:29 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=43300 Read more..]]> “We never know how high we are until we are called to rise; and then, if we are true to plan, our statures touch the skies,”

– Emily Dickinson


Putting this issue of Irish America together has been an extraordinarily moving experience.

There are stories that made us cry.

Stories of incredible courage.

And stories that brought us hope.

And through it all we got to connect with some amazing people whose shared experiences are documented in the following pages.

We hope that you will read every profile in this issue. They are in no particular order but I promise you will find inspiration, and hope, and security in the knowledge that people are capable of great goodness.

We picked those featured on our cover because they are representative of the many wonderful people involved in the rescue operation. Firefighter Danny Foley, Ironworker Joe Mooney, Policeman Paul McCormack, Fr. Brian Jordan who blessed the giant cross formed by two beams that the ironworkers pulled from the rubble, Matt Galvin of the NYPD Emerald Pipe and Drums Band, who played at so many memorials, Kerry McGinnis who helped reunite people with their pets, and Stormy who is standing in for the many search and rescue dogs.

It was very moving to meet all of these people, especially Danny Foley, who reluctantly came along to the photo shoot. His father told him he should because, “They were nice to your brother Tommy.” We have a special place in our hearts here at Irish America for Tommy, one of the firefighters lost on September 11. When we honored him a few years back with a Top 100 award for an amazing rescue, he shrugged off the hero stuff, saying he was just doing his job. “If anyone asks, I just tell them I’m Irish,” he said.

So many of the firefighters killed in the collapse of the towers were Irish, and as we mourn them we take pride in their bravery. For more on the history of the FDNY read Pete Hamill’s “In the Line of Duty” which we reprint in this issue.

Working on this commemorative issue put us in touch with the Downey family. Just as I was having a difficult time with captions for a piece written by Brian Rohan on Chief Ray Downey, his son, Joe, called and was able to help. I am sure it was a bit of divine intervention on the part of the man the other firefighters called “God” because of his supreme authority on the job.

Downey’s story, and the story by Keith Kelly on officer Moira Smith, who also had a zest for life, are representative of the 343 firefighters, 90 of whom had brothers in the department, 23 police officers and 37 Port Authority police who were killed.

We can’t hear these statistics often enough. Not in a sorrowful way, but to remind us that there are people out there who put themselves on the line for us every day.

“We have to look for the good,” Mary Geraghty tells me.

Peter Foley, who contributed so many photographs of firefighters to this issue, documented the bravery of men like Mary’s husband, Lieutenant Edward Geraghty. We will never forget them. Mary’s son, Connor, 14, has started a petition for a national Firefighters Day, not just for his dad but for all firefighters. Connor says, “They’ve always been heroes and now we need to recognize them.”

We were lucky to have on board Kit DeFever, who not only took the cover shot, but the one of the Irish American ironworkers for Georgina Brennan’s piece on the rescue and recovery operation. Again, it was our privilege to meet the ironworkers, a wonderful bunch of guys, so masculine and rock solid, and yet so kind and good. The sort of men you would want around in an emergency.

Putting this issue together gave us a chance to reconnect with the Irish in Canada, specifically the people of Gander and the surrounding hamlets, who opened their hearts and homes to many thousands of stranded passengers.

Lynn Tierney’s office helped us find photographs of firefighters and background information. And her assistant Paul Iannizzotto, delivered them to us personally.

As a Deputy Commissioner for the FDNY, Lynn had the task of writing eulogies for her firefighter colleagues, including her friend Bill Feehan. His story is one of many we plan to bring to you in future issues. Lynn told us of listening to “Long Journey Home,” the soundtrack to the PBS documentary on the Irish in America, as she wrote the eulogies late into the night.

The many experiences of the Irish are touched on in this poignant album, with its songs of emigration, famine, and other hardships suffered as they made their way in the New World.

Produced by Paddy Moloney of The Chieftains, the album opens with Van Morrison singing “Shenandoah,” a sea-shanty with Irish and African roots that brings to mind the Civil War, the Irish Brigade and The Zouaves, a much decorated unit comprised largely of Irish firefighters from New York. The title song, composed and sung by Elvis Costello, is particularly poignant when you think of the firefighters at the World Trade Center and the image of the Irish and American flags merging:

“…As you ascend the ladder

look out below where you tread

for the colors bled as they overflowed

red, white and blue, green, white and gold.”

Over 200 Claddagh rings were found in the rubble of the World Trade Center, one of the many facts gleaned from Dennis Smith’s book, Report from Ground Zero, an excerpt from which runs in this issue. It was of the Claddagh that Moira Smith’s husband, Jim, spoke at her memorial. The design is emblazoned on a ferry named in her honor. The heart represents the hearts of all mankind and that which gives everlasting music to the Gael. The hands clasped around the heart stand for Friendship, Love, and Loyalty, these are the qualities that got us through tough times before, and they will again. ♦

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Flag-Raising Firefighters https://irishamerica.com/2002/04/flag-raising-firefighters/ https://irishamerica.com/2002/04/flag-raising-firefighters/#respond Mon, 01 Apr 2002 08:58:22 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=43315 Read more..]]> The image of firefighters Dan McWilliams, George Johnson and Billy Eisengrein raising the tattered Stars and Stripes on September 11 became a symbol of hope for Americans on their darkest day. The three firefighters had spent the day at Ground Zero searching for survivors among the mammoth piles of rubble and in late afternoon were told to evacuate due to imminent collapse of WTC Building Seven. As McWilliams was leaving the area, he saw a flag on a yacht that was docked nearby. He took the flag and its pole and made his way back to the evacuation area. On the way he met his friends Johnson and Eisengrein, who helped him raise it. “Everybody just needed a shot in the arm,” McWilliams said afterwards. The moment was captured by Thomas E. Franklin of The Record (Bergen County, N.J.) whose eye was caught by the flash of red, white and blue among the gray. The three firefighters were unaware that they were being photographed. Paramedic Roger Smyth, whose story is also covered in this issue, also recognized the iconic significance of the action of the three men. He took the photograph featured above.

The flag flew at Ground Zero for several days before it was brought to the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Middle East where it was flown at the highest mast. It will be returned to the New York Fire Department, which also plans to install an 18-foot-high bronze statue of firefighters raising a flag as a memorial at FDNY headquarters. ♦

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The Legacy of Chief Geraghty https://irishamerica.com/2002/04/the-legacy-of-chief-geraghty/ https://irishamerica.com/2002/04/the-legacy-of-chief-geraghty/#respond Mon, 01 Apr 2002 08:57:46 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=43318 Read more..]]> Battalion Chief Edward Geraghty, of Battalion 9, Engine 54, Ladder 4 (48th Street and 8th Avenue in New York City), was an 18-year veteran of the department and the recipient of many meritorious awards throughout his long and distinguished career.

“Anyone who got to spend time around Chief Geraghty knew he was a special person. The kinda guy we were all supposed to grow up like. He was a little larger than life, kinda like Spencer Tracy or John Wayne. You always felt safe around him,” recalls Peter Foley, a photographer who, spent three months in 2000 at Geraghty’s firehouse. (Peter took the photos on this page).

Chief Edward Geraghty.

Geraghty’s widow, Mary, feels that it would help her and her three sons, Connor, James and Colin, in their grieving to know what happened to their father in his last moments. She would like to hear from anybody who may have been helped by her husband, or who saw him on the morning of September. As a battalion chief, he wore a white shirt and a white helmet, which would have distinguished him from other firefighters, and this may help to jog somebody’s memory.

Meanwhile, Geraghty’s son Connor, 14, has inherited his father’s determination and drive. Connor has started an electronic petition to create a National Firefighters Day. The proposed Firefighters Day would not be just for those who, like Connor’s dad, made the supreme sacrifice on September 11th but would be for all firefighters throughout the country. As Connor says, “They’ve always been heroes and now we need to recognize them.”

Mary Geraghty with her three sons Connor (right), James (left) and Colin (front).

Connor received thousands of e-mails a day, culminating in more than 40,000 signatures to support his petition, which was presented by then FDNY Commissioner Thomas Von Essen to President George W. Bush in November 2001. ♦

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Bill Butler https://irishamerica.com/2002/04/bill-butler/ https://irishamerica.com/2002/04/bill-butler/#respond Mon, 01 Apr 2002 08:56:55 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=43324 Read more..]]> Firefighter Bill Butler is very grateful to be alive. He and five colleagues from Ladder 6, Engine 9, were in the North Tower helping to rescue a Port Authority worker named Josephine Harris when the building collapsed around them. Miraculously, the part of the stairwell that they were in remained intact and they survived though others above and below them perished.

When the first plane struck the WTC, Butler was at his firehouse on Canal Street in Chinatown with Captain John Jonas and fellow firefighters Mike Meldrum, Tom Falco, Matt Komorowski and Sal D’Agostino. Straightaway, they rushed to the WTC. They arrived just as the second plane entered the South Tower. Up until this point they thought it might be possible that they were dealing with a stunt that had gone wrong. Now they knew the World Trade Center was under attack and the situation was extremely critical — they had to get people out before something else happened.

The men started the climb up Stairwell B of the North Tower towards the fire, carrying their heavy equipment and pacing themselves so that they would not be too exhausted to do anything once they got to the 80th floor. Without knowing what had happened, they heard the thunderous roar of the collapse of the South Tower. Shortly afterwards, Captain Jonas received a radio message telling them of the collapse. Knowing that if one tower could go, both could go, he gave an order that they should start the descent downwards.

At around the 15th floor, they caught up with an exhausted Josephine Harris who had descended from the 73rd floor. Butler and Falco took her arms and helped her down, but she collapsed around the fourth floor. “We knew the South Tower had collapsed though we didn’t know the magnitude of it. I have heard a building being described as collapsed when the dry wall on the ceiling has fallen off. At the same time, we knew we had to get out of that building. We tried to keep moving at a steady pace and move Josephine with us, but she was slowing us down.” As the firefighters continued to urge Harris onwards, they felt a monstrous shudder as the building collapsed around them. Amidst the unbelievable noise and dust, Butler “got to grips with his own mortality” as he and his colleagues were thrown about by the force of the collapse.

Komorowski who had been last in line was hurled down two flights of stairs and ended up in front of the others, while Harris ended up below Butler, holding onto his boot. They ended up extricating themselves from the rubble and dust, cut and bruised but amazingly all alive. The seven of them were spread out in the stairwell between the second and fourth floors. Four other rescue workers were trapped with them, including Rich Picciotta, a Fire Department chief, and three Port Authority officers. They tried transmitting Mayday calls but got no response. They then used one of the Port Authority officer’s cell phone but couldn’t get through to any New Jersey or New York City area codes. Butler then tried his home in upstate New York in area code 845. He got through to his wife who was able to contact rescue workers and tell them of the group’s whereabouts. The eleven spent the next couple of hours settling into long survivor mode — conserving radio and flashlights and only taking hits off their breathing apparatus’ when it was absolutely necessary — waiting for the dust to settle. Butler explains, “We knew there had been a major collapse of the building but didn’t know if it was jet fuel exploding or how serious the collapse was.”

The enormity of the collapse only began to dawn on them as a shaft of light reached them from above where over 100 stories of the building had been. Though they were on the fourth floor, they were approximately 70 feet from ground level (the central atrium of the WTC was three stories high, so that the second floor was effectively at fourth story level). Eventually, the men deployed a rope line attached to the Fire Department’s Rich Picciotta, who edged his way up rubble to levels five and six. At this point, he was able to put his head through the gap and make contact with a firefighter from Ladder 43 who summoned other members of his company to assist. Ladder 43 tried to lead them out the way they had come in but couldn’t as there was too much fire. “We had to head out towards West Street. We were on rubble seven stories in the air. Our fire truck had been about 50 yards away from the stairwell where we entered the building. Now to get out, we had to traverse about two or three hundred feet of debris — we couldn’t see the truck, it was completely covered.”

Butler is well aware of the miraculous nature of their escape. People above and below them perished, and their meeting Josephine Harris contributed to all of them getting out safely — she delayed them so that they were on the fourth floor when the tower collapsed. “It definitely changes you. I feel that God spared us. Since then, I have gone out to schools telling students about the Fire Department — about our teamwork — how we used our skills to save ourselves and how we just kept going until we got out. It’s my way of doing something. It makes me feel good to talk about this because I’m doing it for the 343 guys who didn’t get out. They were doing the same job as we were and didn’t make it. For some reason, we did.”

Butler, who now works with Rescue 1 in Midtown Manhattan, lives with his wife and three children in Middletown, New York. ♦

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Arlene Howard: A Mother’s Love https://irishamerica.com/2002/04/arlene-howard-a-mothers-love/ https://irishamerica.com/2002/04/arlene-howard-a-mothers-love/#respond Mon, 01 Apr 2002 08:55:40 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=43327 Read more..]]> Arlene Howard presented a very moving picture when she pressed her son George’s New York Port Authority Police Department shield into the hand of President George W. Bush. The 77-year-old’s son had died helping to rescue victims of the September 11 attacks, and President Bush was well aware of the honor behind the gesture. After thanking her, he whispered to her, “We’ll get them.” Nine days later, proving that he considered the shield to be a symbol of the many lives lost, he produced it while addressing the nation before a joint session of Congress. “And I will carry this. It is the police shield of a man named George Howard, who died at the World Trade Center trying to save others…. This is my reminder of lives that ended and a task that does not end.” On Veterans’ Day in New York City, Arlene Howard saw her son’s shield again. President Bush, introduced her as not only a friend and U.S. Navy veteran but “a veteran of September 11.”

George Howard was a single father of two teenage sons. An expert in technical rescue, a volunteer firefighter and a fire-academy trainer, he received the PAPD’ s Medal of Valor for rappelling down an elevator shaft to save more than 60 people after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. The courage that characterized George Howard was evidently inherited from his late father, a former World War II Navy lieutenant, and from his mother, who counts a New York Police Department sergeant, a U.S. Navy captain, an Air Force veteran and a daughter who serves at U.S. Space Command in Colorado among her children. ♦

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Roger Smyth: NYC 911 Paramedic https://irishamerica.com/2002/04/roger-smyth-nyc-911-paramedic/ https://irishamerica.com/2002/04/roger-smyth-nyc-911-paramedic/#respond Mon, 01 Apr 2002 08:54:17 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=43330 Read more..]]> Belfast native Roger Smyth moved to the U.S. five years ago and for the last three and a half years has worked at New York University Hospital’s downtown location on Gold and Beekman Streets, a few blocks from the World Trade Center.

At about 8:50 on the morning of September 11, Smyth was at home in Park Slope, Brooklyn, when a friend called to tell him that a plane had struck the WTC. He went up to his roof from where he has a clear view of downtown, and once he saw what was happening, he got in his car to go to NYU Hospital.

Driving on the Brooklyn Bridge, Smyth saw the second plane hitting the South Tower. Ten minutes later, he was in an ambulance on the short journey to the WTC. On arrival, he was assigned to the South Tower where he helped the wounded. He and his partner intubated a woman with serious burns and brought her to NYU and then onto the Burns Unit at Cornell Hospital when it was decided to transfer her there. It was while they were driving along the FDR back to the WTC that they saw the South Tower — where they had been shortly before — collapse. Smyth describes the scene: “It was utter devastation. The command units had been wiped out — there was nobody to give instructions. After the second tower fell there was nobody left for us to help, other than the rescue workers — we irrigated their eyes, helped with respiratory disorders and other injuries.”

Roger’s emergency service badge number carries the date of the Trade Center tragedy, 9/11.

Smyth spent 14 hours at Ground Zero on that day. In the chaos, he got separated from his partner and ended up working with another paramedic, Trin Dinh, who had also lost her partner (luckily both turned up safely later). “As far as I knew, I had lost my partner, but strangely, morale was good. We watched the three firefighters raise the flag, and that was a surreal moment. Even there, in the eerie silence, I think we were aware that it was a significant moment — something amazing to see. I don’t know if it was relief that I was alive or whether it was necessary to try to keep upbeat in the face of such tragedy, but we kept trying tell jokes to keep our spirits up. It wasn’t until I got back home at about 2:00 a.m. that it started to sink in. I sat down and had a beer with some friends and broke down and cried for about 20 minutes.”

Over the next four or five days that Smyth spent at Ground Zero in a voluntary capacity, in between his shifts at the hospital, he kept bumping into a group of firefighters of Ladder 7, Engine 16 and struck up a friendship with them. He became their personal paramedic for the time he was down there. He admits to feeling some degree of survivor’s guilt. “Visiting Ladder 7’s firehouse, I saw five or six families with children who had lost their father. As a single guy, I definitely felt guilty. On the day, we believed there might be the possibility of another attack. If I had kids, who knows how I might have felt about being there?” ♦

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Father Christopher Keenan: Fire Department Chaplain https://irishamerica.com/2002/04/father-christopher-keenan-fire-department-chaplain/ https://irishamerica.com/2002/04/father-christopher-keenan-fire-department-chaplain/#respond Mon, 01 Apr 2002 08:53:21 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=43336 Read more..]]> Fr. Christopher Keenan, a Franciscan priest whose parents came from Co. Galway and Co. Roscommon, has been assigned the difficult task of replacing the much loved Fr. Mychal Judge as chaplain of the Fire Department. Fr. Judge, a fellow Franciscan and a friend of Fr. Keenan’s for 38 years, was killed on September 11 giving last rites to Fire Chief Bill Feehan. In his role as chaplain, Fr. Keenan will form part of an interfaith chaplaincy team made up of seven members including one Muslim, one Jewish and four other Christian chaplains.

Prior to September 11, his demanding schedule included working as “part of the Franciscan family trying to develop partnerships around issues of justice.” Fr. Keenan’s role in this program involved trying to help the 13,000 homeless children and their families throughout the five boroughs of New York. His duties also included church activities such as celebrating masses and hearing confessions at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street near 7th Avenue. While Fr. Keenan is still involved in these duties, to which the Franciscans attach a high priority, he personally has less time to pursue them now that his role as fire chaplain has expanded from the part-time 20 hours a week role it was originally envisaged as being. Fr. Keenan explains that his Franciscan colleagues have been kind enough to allow him the time and freedom to pursue his valuable work with the Fire Department. “The staff felt that we owed a duty to the city to free me up to devote more time to the Fire Department, as Mychal was able to.”

Fr. Keenan describes the primary role of the chaplain before September 11 as being to respond to three-alarm fires (serious fires for which 3 alarms are rung) and to make hospital visits to injured firefighters. If a firefighter died, the chaplain would help with notifying the family and assist with funeral arrangements. Since September 11, the duties have changed substantially. He visits Ground Zero a couple of times a week and hears mass there, particularly on weekends. He visits the burn centers at NYU and Cornell Hospitals every weekend. He also visits the morgue and attends memorial services, funerals and wakes. He sees his role as not so much to offer spiritual guidance but rather to try to sort out problems and difficulties the firefighters might be experiencing. “When I look at them, it is unspoken, they just want me to be real with them, just to be there.”

If he can’t help the firefighters himself, he is happy to refer them to somebody who can and he emphasizes that emergency workers and paramedics are included as part of the Fire Department. He worries that some of the rescue workers will experience a unique kind of post-traumatic stress that is unquantifiable and which may not manifest itself for a while. “In the Pan-Am disaster in Lockerbie and in Oklahoma, firefighters and rescue workers went in after people they didn’t know, yet they still suffered post-traumatic stress. In New York, the firefighters were involved in the tragedy themselves and then went in to recover their brothers and friends as well as other people.”

He cautions that it is not just rescue workers who are at risk. “Over 30,000 people have been directly affected by September 11 and may experience difficulty coping,” he says and urges anybody with signs of post-traumatic stress to seek counseling. These warning signs are: feelings of anger, irritability or depression which are difficult to control; experiencing nightmares or traumatic dreams; an increased use of alcohol or drugs; and a desire to isolate oneself from family and/or friends.

Fr. Keenan identifies some of the incredible pressures faced by firefighters arising out of September 11: “343 `brothers’ are dead or missing and another 300 will never return to the Fire Department because of injuries they sustained on that day. They continue to do their job in the absence of their lost colleagues, do their shifts at Ground Zero, attend all the funerals and memorial services, and be surrogate fathers and support figures to families who lost members as well as looking after their own families. They will not be at peace until this is over — until every person who can be found is found.”

Despite these difficulties, he is optimistic about the future of the FDNY. Though they are dealing with “a grief that is beyond all griefs,” hope lies in their unique spirit.

“They all do whatever needs to be done…while they are devastated, they have an incredible way of life that will ultimately sustain them. They go out in the truck together to shop in a supermarket — sharing the expenses. They cook together and sleep in dormitories. They socialize outside the job and their families know one another. Everything they do has to be teamwork. Their lives depend on one another.”

For himself, Fr. Keenan feels that his exposure to “these incredible people” has helped transform his own anxiety and fear into serenity and peace. Despite having what he describes as “initial misgivings about stepping into Mychal’s shoes,” he decided to take the job. In doing so, he is following advice that he feels Mychal would have offered him: “Just be yourself, follow God’s will, enjoy these wonderful people as I did and take one day at a time.” ♦

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