Glass from the Twin Towers and a rivet of 9/11 steel from the World Trade Center were donated to the Medal of Honour Exhibition in Kinsale, Co Cork over the weekend with 35 members of the New York Fire Department travelling over to the town for the ceremony.
Members of Ladder 43 were said to have been particularly moved by their visit to the Kinsale Garden of Remembrance which is dedicated to the memory of Fr Mychal Judge, former chaplain of the New York Fire Department, and to the 343 firefighters who died in New York on September 11, 2001.
Founder of the Irish Veterans Organisation, Declan Hughes, said looking at the shard of glass he imagined the regular person who was going about their business in the Twin Towers, perhaps glancing out that very window on the day of the terrorist attack.
Mr Hughes said he was honoured that the New York Fire Brigade had travelled in such large numbers to donate the items to the exhibition. He said the firefighters also went to the White House in Kinsale which has a display dedicated to 9/11 as the owner lost a cousin in the atrocity.
Mr Hughes says that there is a whole generation growing up who did not witness the events of September 11.
“But I think anyone over 17 absolutely remembers it. Their [the firefighters] first stop was the Garden of Remembrance. It was very poignant for them.
The presentation of the items was made at the Medal of Honour exhibition in the Glen on Saturday. The steel presented was a bolt, or rivet which was picked up on the day of the 9/11 attack by a firefighter. Among the guests of honour at the private ceremony was county mayor Declan Hurley.
Meanwhile, Mr Hughes says visitors are expected to attend the Medal of Honour Exhibition in large numbers this summer. The main draw is its medal of honour which is on loan for the rest of the year. The medal is 120 years old and was awarded to Michael Gibbons who received it for the bravery he displayed during the 1898 Spanish American war.
Mr Gibbons emigrated and joined the US Navy. He was decorated for heroism under fire off the coast of Cuba. A fellow Co Mayo native, a US marine named Philip Gaughan, was in the same small boat during the action, and he also received the medal of honor. It is unprecedented that a medal of honour is on display outside of the US.
The medal is the highest military honour the US can bestow, and many of the awards are made posthumously. The Irish have been among the most notable of recipients since the medal’s inception in the 1860s — many to Irish people who left Ireland post-Famine to make better lives in America.
Only 3,500 medals of honour have been awarded since 1863. More than 2,100 of these medals were received by men of Irish heritage and at least 258 medals went to Irish-born servicemen.
The Irish Veterans Organisation was set up in 2015 to conduct historical research into the involvement of Irish men and women who served in foreign military and ancillary forces. It is managed by Declan Hughes who has more than 30 years experience in social and development issues.
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