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Friday 15 November 2019

Ceremonies honour the 1,000 victims with Irish connections

Mark Hilliard and Brian McDonald

FAMILIES and communities gathered yesterday to remember the Irish victims of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre.

While just six Irish-born people perished, yesterday's poignant 10th anniversary remembered the estimated 1,000 people who had connections with the country.

From small, intimate family gatherings here to the crowds who attended the service in Manhattan, everyone remembered the dead in their own way.

"We all have our memories of that day and it's still horrible and hard to understand," said Mark Clifford, whose sister Ruth McCourt (45) and her four-year-old daughter Juliana were killed in the plane that struck the South Tower.

Ruth had been bringing her daughter on a surprise trip to Disneyland.

"We had a lovely family event -- all our family gathered in St Finbar's Cemetery in Cork," said Mark.

"We unveiled a new stone for Ruth which isn't 100pc finished but it's nearly there. It represents Ruth, Juliana and everyone who is in the family grave."

The family read poetry and some said a few words.


"It was emotional. We had generations of the family there -- cousins and new children. It was important for us to have the children there."

Ruth's husband David McCourt was in touch by phone and plans to visit the family in the coming days.

"He is just reflecting on the day -- it's very sad for him. He has remarried in the last couple of months," said Mark.

In Tuam, Co Galway, the parents of Ann Marie McHugh (35) who had been working on the 84th floor of the South Tower at the time of the attack, said it was difficult to move on.

"People say time is a great healer but the problem is we're reminded of that day constantly so it's a never-ending affair for us," Padraic McHugh told a gathering at the town's Garden of Remembrance.

"A lot of people from Tuam who travel to New York visit Ground Zero and see Ann Marie's name on the memorial plaque.

"They often visit the church nearby and say a few prayers and then, when they come home, they tell us about it."

Tuam Town Council, local gardai and fire offices attended the ceremony with Padraic and Margaret and a wreath was laid in their daughter's memory.

In Cappawhite, Co Tipperary, Martin Coughlan (54) was quietly remembered, as he is every year, during Sunday Mass.

The carpenter was refurbishing offices in the South Tower when the first plane struck.

Many of his family are now deceased but locals said a few relatives had travelled to New York for yesterday's ceremony.

"We had a Mass on the day after (the terrorist attack) and there were throngs of people at it and he is remembered every year in Mass," said local councillor Mary Hanna Hourigan.

"We are thinking of him at this time and even though it's 10 years it doesn't go away."

As she was leaving the ceremony at Ground Zero, Eileen Tallon from Cork reflected on the death of her firefighter son Sean, who was last seen climbing the steps of the North Tower in a desperate bid to help those above.

"I think about him every day, I go to Mass every morning," Eileen said, leaving Manhattan with her daughter Rosaleen.

"I'm lucky because I work part-time and so I can go to Mass before I start. When I come down here it's awful looking at all the young people who died on the screens of the TVs but I am coping very well, thank God.

"When I think about what he endured it brings out tremendous emotion. It must have been awful for him but now I say it is over and he is fine.

"That is how I coped after 9/11 -- (by thinking) that it was over and he wasn't hurting anymore.

"I was over looking at my son's name on the board and there was a man there with a picture of his little two-year-old girl who he said died on one of the flights."


Back in Ireland, the people of Keshcarrigan, Co Leitrim, lined out to honour Fr Mychal Judge -- the heroic priest who was killed by debris from the collapsing South Tower while trying to help and offer prayers for the dead.

Like hundreds of those who perished, Fr Judge was of Irish descent -- his parents met on an American-bound liner in 1926.

The Franciscan priest (68) rushed to the scene of devastation. There he met New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani who asked him to pray for the city and its victims.

Fr Judge was the first certified fatality of September 11.

Irish Independent

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