- Posted September 12, 2012 by
An Irish Side of 9/11
On September 11, 2001 I was nine years old. I had just arrived home from school when my mother turned around before she opened the door and told me America was under attack. I spent hours watching the news footage waiting to see a familiar face over 3,000 miles away before asking if we could contact my relative in New York. She was safe.
A few years later I remember having a teacher who announced to the class one day, referring to 9/11, that: ‘thousands of people are killed in attacks in poverty-stricken countries every year and you don’t see a big deal made about that.’ Although I agreed that she did have a point, this statement stayed with me and made me feel as though I needed to find more of a connection to the attacks to justify the feeling of sadness I often had.
This year a documentary aired on our national station, The Ashes of 9/11. The documentary follows the stories of Irish-natives who were caught up in the 2001 attacks. It tells the story of Ron Clifford from County Cork who managed to escape the South Tower lobby, oblivious to the fact that his sister Ruth and her four year old daughter Julianna were passengers on one of the hijacked planes. It tells of a carpenter from County Tipperary, Martin Coughlan, who was refurbishing offices on the 90th floor of the South Tower as the first plane hit. It explores the story of Sean Cummins, a firefighter from Dublin, who had he not previously swapped his shift would have been yet another victim. Anthony Curtin an NYPD homicide detective from Kerry discusses how he spent weeks digging through rubble and debris and has yet to discover the toll this will take on his health in the future.
There are approximately 8.2 million people living in New York, 13 percent of these people claim to be of Irish heritage. An estimated 3,000 people lost their lives on September 11, 2001; and it is claimed that 1,000 of these victims were of Irish decent. I found my connection.