Memories of a devastated New York City on 9/11’s anniversary
Is it not strange the things you remember from scenes like that?
I was on air in the Clare FM studios in Ennis when it happened. The discussion on the current affairs show was about coping with bereavement when the newsroom advised me on the headphones that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers in New York.
We switched on the mute TV screen in the studio in time to watch what might have been a tragic accident evolving into an atrocity in apparent slow-mo over New York.
Tears began running down the cheeks of the bereavement counselor. She had been dealing with bereavement coping for families minutes before. Now she was watching mass bereavement being inflicted on one of the world's greatest cities.
I remember saying there had to be a major Irish consequence of the horror we were watching because of the ethnic percentages of New York's population.
A few raw months later the progressive little radio station in Clare sent me with a microphone to Ground Zero. The atmosphere was still electricated and heavy with residual shock and horror.
Incredible that it is over a decade ago. It still feels like the dreadful day before yesterday.
Is it not strange the things you remember from scenes like that? Do ye know what I remember strongest? The timber hoardings around the wooden stairway reaching up to the viewing area rose up above one corner of a little city cemetery.
Somebody told me it was a Protestant cemetery. It had old grey headstones rather than modern marble stones.
There were a few stubby surviving shrubs and bushes between them. And in between those shrubs and stones there flitted again small hardy city sparrows and finches! Survivors.
I stood on the stairs and heard their resilient tiny songsounds against the background of light traffic up and down Fulton Street. It was life on the sidelines of death.
They flitted and fluttered between the silent stones of those old New Yorkers who had died and been buried decently and honorably in their time and season only a few yards away from the gaping craters where thousands had died and been pulverized horrifically long before their time and season.
That tiny volume of birdsong is what I remember strongest. That and the poignant pleading photos tacked to the hoardings around tragedy.
They were still bright and young and somehow alive, those who are now granite names around the remembrance ponds. They were black and white and Latino, and so many of them were beautiful and handsome and wearing the broad smiles of happy times.
And there were so many of them. So terribly many.
I was a working hack on the day. Life goes on and there was a living to be earned.
In such circumstances a professional dissociation is necessary. I've seen many horrors in my time as a journalist but nothing on this vast scale. It was difficult to hold one's composure but I just about managed.
I had the mike in my hand and the team began recording. I took no notes. I just verbally registered what I was seeing and hearing and feeling for the next seven or eight minutes without stopping at all lest I might not be able to continue. It was like that.
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