Friday 15 November 2019

The Irish workers giving Big Apple a renewed sense of hope

L-R: Willie O'Donnell, Jimmy O'Sullivan, Niall Marshall, Michael Deere and Mike Carmody
L-R: Willie O'Donnell, Jimmy O'Sullivan, Niall Marshall, Michael Deere and Mike Carmody

Vincent Murphy

IT IS the most high-profile construction project on the planet, but to the builders on site, it's just a regular job.

Scores of Irish construction workers are employed at Ground Zero, helping to rebuild the site left devastated by the fall of the Twin Towers.

"It's definitely a privilege to work here," says Willie O'Donnell (40) from Listowel, Co Kerry, who has been on site for two-and-a-half years.

"The first day you start here, you remember 9/11, where you were and everything like that.

"But you just work away and it becomes just a regular, pain-in-the-ass job!"

Mr O'Donnell works for Navillus, a Kerry company responsible for most of the concrete work on the new Memorial Plaza and 9/11 Museum.

On the day the terrorists struck the Twin Towers in 2001, he was working on nearby Canal Street and saw the giant buildings crumble before his eyes.


Now, a decade later, he's helping to rebuild the site they once stood on.

The attacks were also witnessed first-hand by two of his colleagues.

Jimmy O'Sullivan (47) from Dunmanway, Co Cork, was working on a high-rise on 47th Street in midtown Manhattan, when the first plane flew suspiciously low over their heads.

A colleague remarked to him: "There's something wrong", and then, "everybody just froze".

He said: "It's great to be building it back up again. It's something that you feel honoured to be involved in."

Mike Carmody (37) from Tarbert, Co Kerry, was working 30 floors up on a building project across the river in Queens.

And Michael Deere (43) from Pallasgreen, Co Limerick, was working underground across the bridge in Brooklyn on the day of the attacks.

By the time he emerged, all he could see was a cloud of smoke hanging over all of Lower Manhattan.

He has been working as a carpenter with Bovis, the general contractors for the Memorial Plaza and Museum, for five months.

"Six weeks ago, you wouldn't have thought it would ever open on time, but there's been massive progress," he said.

Working alongside him with Bovis is Niall Marshall (31) from Birr, Co Offaly.

"I am very proud of being here," he says. "A lot of American people look at this as something great -- a rebuilding that's going to bring everyone back together."

Irish Independent

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