From the west of Ireland to the Jersey Shore names and lives lived are alive in memory

Memorial to Dennis McHugh FDNY
Memorial to Dennis McHugh FDNY
Sometimes a name sticks in the mind for good reason.

Sandy is one.

For me now, McHugh is another.

Most of tropical storm Andrea’s rains had blown past clearing the way for a brilliant sunrise over the Atlantic for my first proper weekend on Long Beach Island since Super Sandy Storm last October.

Up too early, mug of coffee in hand and sunshades on the nose, I made my way to the beach to greet the bright sky reflecting off the surf.

Since “our” beach was closed for repairs, I headed for the bench on the dunes one block over. Oddly, only steps away, I had never before walked the short sandy lane heading to the ocean at 43rd Street in Brant Beach.

American flags wiping in the sea wind are common at beach entrances. Under the stars and stripes on this walkway was hanging a framed, well-protected photograph of a young firefighter.

Having seen too many before, I knew straight away he was FDNY and died on September 11, 2001.
The words under his picture offered a few details.

He perished at 34 years of age and his name was Dennis P. McHugh (Engine 22 Ladder 13).

After a respectful moment in his honor, I was perched on the bench with my coffee and the day’s first smoke staring at the sun and the sea and thinking back on that morning.

Also, the name McHugh and the infamous date kept bouncing around the brain. Something was familiar.
Memorial to Ann Marie McHugh in Tuam

The coffee kicked in and the head had a notion. A quick search through the photos in the blasted phone confirmed the connection.

Last month, Honey Badger and I had the pleasure of wandering the streets of Tuam, County Galway on a brilliant Sunday afternoon. A few extra steps off the main path landed us in a garden of remembrance next to a small stream. It was only peaceful and beautiful.

The spot was in honor of town native Ann Marie McHugh.

She was 35-years-old when she died in Tower Two on September 11, 2001 in New York City.
The most impressive feature there was the monument of The Towers carved out of local stone. So simple, so Irish, it was perfect.

A quick online search didn’t deliver enough about Dennis and Ann Marie. The curiosity of who they were wasn’t satisfied. But I found them right next to each other on www.voicesofseptember11.org.
A line in Irish America Magazine said Ann Marie was to be married. The Tuam Herald announced at the time there would be a service for her on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

A New York Times “Portraits of Grief” piece reported Dennis was a son, brother, husband and father of three who played Gaelic football. He sounded like a solid man. There is a foundation in his name. You can visit it at www.dennispmchugh.org.

I didn’t know them and still don’t, but now I will never forget them.

From the cut stone forming two columns in the West of Ireland to the photograph swinging in the beach breeze on the Jersey Shore, we still remember those we lost that day.

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