Members of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) and their Emerald Society Pipe and Drum Band visited the Kinsale memorial garden dedicated to the 9/11 victims – and collected more than €5,000 in fundraising towards the upkeep of the site.
One of the highlights of the special memorial ceremony was the playing of a song by Cork folk artist, Dave McGilton, entitled The Sky Belongs to Dreamers.
It was written as a tribute to the heroism of FDNY members and their chaplain Fr Mychal Judge who, when everyone else was fleeing the burning World Trade Centre towers, bravely ran into the towers in a bid to save people.
The Kinsale Remembrance Garden was established by Kathleen Cait Murphy who worked for more than 40 years in New York.
She was based at Lennox Hill Hospital and became friendly with many FDNY members including Fr Judge.
The chaplain died in the 9/11 attacks – killed as he was tending to the critically injured in the lobby of the World Trade Centre’s North Tower.
Fr Judge had entered the tower lobby just minutes after he had met New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and assured him he would do all he could to comfort the injured and dying at the site.
The FDNY chaplain was killed by flying debris and became the first certified fatality of the 9/11 atrocity in New York.
Ms Murphy was so moved by the stories of heroism, sacrifice and loss that she decided to found the special garden in her native Kinsale to honour the 343 firemen who died.
New York firefighters visit the special garden to fulfill a debt of honour and to thank the Irish people for their support in the wake of the terror attacks.
The visit was also aimed at helping raise awareness of the garden and its message of solidarity and peace.
As well as Emerald Society band members, both serving and retired New York firefighters travelled accompanied by their extended family members.
Cork historian Michelle O’Mahony, who helped coordinate the Kinsale visit for the FDNY, said it was a very special day.
“It was a very emotional event for everyone involved particularly when you remember the heroism and the sacrifices made on September 11,” she said.
Ms O’Mahony said the Cork garden had assumed enormous importance for the FDNY.
“Each individual tree has a name plate in honour of each of the fallen firefighters. This is also the 6 st anniversary of their formation.”
FDNY captain Tom Cunneen, whose family originally hailed from Kerry, delivered a special oration with several of the firefighters present having attended the 9/11 rescue 22 years ago.
The New York group was formally welcomed by Councillor Sean O’Donovan, chairperson of the Bandon-Kinsale municipal district.
A number of different FDNY stations were represented.
Irish groups represented at the ceremony included Cork Co Council and the Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel (ONE).
Special mention was also made of Lt Michael Murphy, a US Navy SEAL who was killed in Afghanistan in 2005.
Lt Murphy – whose story inspired the Hollywood film Lone Survivor – was so taken by the heroism of New York firefighters during the 9/11 attacks that he wore as his personal badge the patch of FDNY Engine Co 53, Ladder Co. 43 , a unit based in Spanish Harlem and made up of Irish and Latino firemen.
The FDNY unit was known as ‘El Barrio’s Bravest’.
The US Navy SEAL was proud of his Irish-American heritage and hailed from Smithtown in New York with several of his friends joining the FDNY.
One of Lt Murphy’s closest friends was a firefighter who was killed responding to the 9/11 attacks.
Lt Murphy was killed during a special forces operation against the Taliban in June 2005 and posthumously received the highest award for gallantry in the US, the Medal of Honour.