Tralee man recalls the horror of 9/11

Kerry men at the foot of the Freedom Tower in downtown Manhattan, New York.
Kerry men at the foot of the Freedom Tower in downtown Manhattan, New York.

Donal Nolan

A KERRY man who witnessed the horrific attack on the World Trade Centre 12 years ago this week described it as a 'privilege' to have worked on the new Freedom Tower since 2009.

The Freedom Tower work has been of a particularly personal resonance for Killorglin man Ciaran O'Halloran as he was there 12 years ago; looking on in horror as the first plane flew over his head and straight into the first tower.

12 years later and he is about to sign off on his work with the Kerry-owned Navillus Construction (Sullivan spelled backwards), a company comprised of numerous Kerry men.

"I was in New York, working on a high rise building on 9/11 when we saw the first plane hit. I was on the 27th floor at 36th and 6th Ave," Ciaran told The Kerryman.

"The plane flew directly overhead on the way downtown. We knew it was too low and too fast to be flying directly over the city, and thought it was going to crash, but maybe into the Hudson or East river," he recalled.

Looking away for a split second, he turned around to see the explosion of the impact.

"We first thought that it was an accident, until we saw the second fireball. We didn't see the second plane approach as we were looking south and it was out of view. We initially thought the second fireball was debris falling onto another building from the first crash. It didn't take long for the news to spread about the Pentagon and that the US was being attacked by terrorists."

Ciaran fled the area to join his Killarney-native wife Corinna at her place of work before heading home to the couple's then three-month-old daughter.

"By the time I met my wife, and started to walk over the 59th street bridge to Queens, the first tower had collapsed. We couldn't believe it. There were thousands of people walking, all vehicles were banned immediately from all the bridges and tunnels, and the subways also stopped."

Along with workmates, Ciaran went back to Ground Zero two days later to volunteer in the massive rescue and clean-up operation.

He said the Freedom Tower represents a victory for the entire city and works on it today with eight remaining Navillus Kerry workers including Billy Daly, John Enright from Ballybunion, Tom Carroll from Listowel, Noel Larkin from Knockanure, Mike Fitzgerald from Lispole, Diarmuid Greaney from Cloghane and Danny O'Shea from Kenmare.