Irish event focuses on reflection and peace

IRELAND marked the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks with a simple yet moving ceremony hosted by the US embassy in Dublin.

As countries around the globe commemorated the memory of the victims of 9/11, several hundred people attended a “ceremony of reflection and peace” at the RDS in Ballsbridge.

The highlight of the event was the unveiling of a specially commissioned work by Waterford sculptor Seán Egan, which contained an actual piece of rubble from the World Trade Center.

A master engraver who previously worked at Waterford Glass, Egan explained that his striking, illuminated piece, Miracle on Stairwell B, depicts the remarkable story of how a group of 16 people trapped inside a stairwell survived the collapse of the North Tower.

“It’s an honour to be involved in events to mark this anniversary,” said Egan, who had previously worked on another piece, 911 Tribute, which captured the iconic photo of US firemen and police officers carrying the body of Fr Mychal Judge from the ruins of the World Trade Center.

One of the those who helped carry the priest’s body, retired police officer Lt William Cosgrave, was one of four veterans of the rescue services working in New York in 2001 who attended yesterday’s event. The others were fire officers, brothers Michael and Thomas O’Rourke, and Dan Daly.

The four men received a standing ovation after Lt Cosgrave recalled the true legacy of 9/11 was the continuing hope and support received from around the world, including Ireland.

“You don’t know how important that was to us,” said Lt Cosgrave.

Welcoming guests, US ambassador Dan Rooney said Americans were grateful for the support of the Irish Government and the affection of the Irish people.

Rooney said people’s hearts were still heavy with the burden of grief and loss over the loved ones who died 10 years ago.

He spoke movingly of the firemen and police officers for not running away from danger: “Heroes are ordinary people who do extraordinary things.”

Rooney said the terrorist attacks by people with an “evil ideology” had failed as individuals, communities and nations had shown over the past decade that they were stronger than fear.

President Mary McAleese said the horror of that “evil day” still had a chilling immediacy: “The television pictures are etched on our mind and the tide of grief has never ever ebbed.”

Mrs McAleese said the commemoration allowed Irish people to take part in an act of solidarity with all the victims of the attacks.

She said 9/11 would forever be defined by the people whose decency and determination stood strong in the defence of human values and dignity which were “the very bedrock of true democracies”.

She also recalled Ireland’s long standing association and pride with US police and fire departments.

Mrs McAleese said the best memorial for the innocent lives lost on 9/11 was to build a better and safer world for the future.

“May love triumph always,” she concluded.

As the clock ticked down towards the time when the first aircraft hit the Twin Towers, the master of ceremonies, Ryan Tubridy, read out the names of victims whose surnames hinted at their Irish ancestry.

At the exact moment of impact at 1.46pm Irish time, the crowd observed a minute’s silence.

Other elements of the event included the performance by the Irish Chamber Orchestra, featuring uilleann piper Pádraic Keane, of a specially commissioned piece, Termon, composed by Micheál Ó Súilleabháin.

The US ambassador’s wife, Patricia Rooney, read The Names, by the US poet laureate, Billy Collins, while the New York-based Soul Steps Dance Troupe performed a piece entitled The Beat Goes On.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, recited Seamus Heaney’s poem, Anything Can Happen.

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