Weekly Comment:
9/11 Fifteen Years On

A firefighter walks through the rubble of the Twin Towers in this photograph by Peter Foley. Foley was one of the first photographers on the scene that day. Just prior to 9/11, he had lived in a Manhattan firehouse, documenting the lives of the firefighters and doing portraits of the men, many of which, sadly, became memorial cards.

By Tom Deignan, Contributor
Sept. 9, 2016

Back in July, on a hot afternoon at Kennedy International Airport in Queens, a truck carried a 40,000-pound piece of debris – draped in an American flag – out of a building known as Hangar 17. The building, for well over a decade, housed over 2,000 items collected from the rubble of the World Trade Center.

But, as the New York Times noted, Hangar 17’s “storage room is now empty, its contents nearly all distributed to museums, exhibits, fire stations, and other locations across the country and in 10 foreign countries.”

With the 15th anniversary of that terrible day approaching, the closing of Hangar 17 is a stark reminder of just how long it has taken – and continues to take – to recover from the 9/11 attacks.

“In essence, this hangar collected history,” Joseph W. Pfeifer, assistant chief for the FDNY, told the Times. “These special artifacts provided us hope,” he added. “It also represents that on 9/11, not only did we lose almost 3,000 people but in New York, we saved over 20,000.”

The 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks will also serve as a reminder of the many charitable foundations Irish Americans have established so that something good can emerge from the terrible losses experienced that day.

There is the Michael Lynch Memorial Foundation, dedicated to the memory and heroism of firefighter Michael Francis Joseph Lynch, a Bronx native who was one of 12 firefighters from Engine 40 / Ladder 35 to perish that day. The Michael Lynch Foundation is “dedicated to providing educational opportunities to the children of firefighters, both fallen and active, as well as children of other victims of the September 11th attacks.”

A recent Lynch Foundation initiative called “Year of Sacrifice, Solitude and Gratitude” raised almost $150,000.

“This outpouring of generosity has surpassed our expectations and we are tremendously thankful for your support and commitment to our efforts,” said Lynch’s mother, Kathleen, who serves as president of the foundation.

Then there is the Johnny Mac Foundation, which holds an annual golf outing at the Dyker Beach Golf Club in Brooklyn. Funds contribute to the construction of a youth center in Blue Point, Long Island, where firefighter John McNamara lived with his wife and son.

“A place to go for counseling, computers, study, skateboard park, a local meeting place for everything from scouting to the local civic groups,” is how McNamara envisioned the youth center in a handwritten wish list.

McNamara belonged to a different set of 9/11 victims – first responders who died from toxins breathed in during the clean-up efforts.

Fifteen years on, Michael Lynch, John McNamara, and so many others, continue to serve and protect. ♦


This article appears in the August / September 2016 issue of Irish America.

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