Irish workers rebuild World Trade Center after 9/11 tragedy
Irish father and son , side by side, help reshape New York skyline
A 16-acre site the redevelopment of Ground Zero is visibly progressing as the rebirth of Lower Manhattan takes form. MOLLY MULDOON talks to some Irish workers who are helping shape the future of the New York skyline.
Patrick O’Shea was only 11 when the planes hit the World Trade Center September 11, 2001.
“I was at school and everyone started getting phone calls. My mom came and collected us, we went to a church to say a couple of prayers and waited for my father to come home,” O’Shea says.
In Midtown Manhattan, Patrick’s father John, originally from Molls Gap in Co. Kerry was sheet rocking on the job when the first plane hit the World Trade Center.
“Looking south from Herald Square I could see the towers on fire,” O’Shea recalls.
“An hour later one of the towers was gone. There was an eerie feeling. We knew we were under attack and that we had to get out of the city, that anything could happen at any time.
“I got a cab up to the George Washington Bridge and took the dollar bus home to New Jersey to be with my family.”
A decade on, John and his son Patrick are now working on the new Four World Trade Center on the site of Ground Zero, a job they both describe as very special.
“People paid the ultimate price and we are privileged to be working here,” John told the Irish Voice.
“We consider it a very special place to working here. It’s 10 years ago almost to the day, and it’s our duty to try and bring this place back to bigger and better than before.”
O’Shea, who emigrated from Kerry in 1982, works as a foreman with Eurotech Construction and specializes in safety protection.
Speaking to the Irish Voice from the second floor Four World Trade, John O’Shea’s busy day is already well underway.
“We are in charge of keeping all the building and the workers safe,” he said.
“Our goal is zero accidents and zero fatalities and so far we have not had one serious accident, only minor cuts and bruises.”
The grueling work routine consists of six-day weeks, a minimum of eight hours a day commencing at 7 a.m. Up against the elements of the harsh New York climate, the weather can have an adverse affect on site progress.
“Now we are making great progress. Last winter we lost time with the weather. When the wind and rain gets excessive we need to stop, but the summer temperatures mean we are ahead of schedule.” John said.
According to John, the enormity of the task at hand, coupled with the significance of the development has resulted in a real sense of unity among workers on site.
“This is a special job and people seem to pull together a lot better town here, there is not that much bickering,” he said.
With more than 3,000 workers on the 16-acre site daily, the Kerry man says there are several Irish tradesmen involved.
“Historically the Irish have been more into construction than other nationalities. We are known for our construction background and we are all pulling together to bring the site back to its former glory,” he said.
Patrick O’Shea told the Irish Voice it was a great experience to be working alongside his father on such a major job.
“I thought it would be a great thing to be a part to be of,” the third year apprentice carpenter said.
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