Jim Brady's bar near Ground Zero is still yet to fully recover from the fateful events of September 11.
Just a few shorts steps away from Fulton Street subway and a ten minute walk from Ground Zero is Jim Brady’s Bar - typical of many Irish bars in New York City: you can get a pint of Guinness here, it proudly flies the tricolor alongside the Star-Spangled Banner and the staff are a mix of American and newly arrived Irish.
But it also a witness to history and the mindless destruction wrought on America by Al Qaeda 16 years ago.
Galwayman and owner Paul Quinn has worked at Jim Brady’s for 40 years and back in 2017 he spoke to IrishCentral and remembered the attack in vivid detail.
“I should hope Hell would be a nicer place than on that particular day,” he recalled.
“When the towers came down it was like an earthquake, we felt a tremor. And of course, all the dust just came right through here.
“It was a beautiful day that day, the sun was shining and it just turned to night. Everyone was running off the streets trying to take shelter from the dust.
“It was hard to not let people in but in the meantime, they were letting a lot of the dust in. So anyhow, we did the best that we could on that particular day. But it was a horrible day.”
It would be two full weeks before Jim Brady’s would open again; as media crews from across the world flocked to New York, mere yards away from the banks of cameras but behind closed doors, the bar’s staff spent hours upon hours scrubbing the place from top to bottom of dust.
Unsurprisingly after they reopened they had few customers and even then they were still scrubbing away debris from the attack.
“There was nobody here. For weeks afterwards, we were really constantly cleaning. Rain came and the whole place was [still] covered in dust.”
Business returned gradually, tradesmen brought into the area stopped by for lunch, but so many regulars were gone for good.
“We lost guys that we knew on a personal level. 25 people we lost that used to come in here. A lot them had been working across here at the Chase building and they had just gone over to the World Trade Center and they had just been there a few months. That’s how we got to know them on a more personal level.
“Knowing that we knew the people who were there and knowing where the planes hit. Quite a few people that I had known personally, I knew that they were above that and that they worked on the higher floors.
“And I knew they were trapped.”
There is no comparison, he says, to the area now and in 2001. When the Twin Towers came down it changed the whole area and what was once a bustling business district began a slow but relentless evolution.
“It’s totally changed. For the simple reason that it’s gone from a business area to a residential area.
“After 9/11 this place was like a ghost town and the Government encouraged any landlords who owned the older office buildings to convert them into residential. To try and coax people down into this area and that’s when most of the area changed over.
“Wall Street has pretty much gone residential.”
With summer not quite gone Jim Brady’s is still busy with tourists. But once winter arrives the number of visitors will peter out and its brisk trade will fade until the spring.
As the annals of American history are slowly written, an Irish bar losing business will likely not even make the footnotes. But on a human level, it’s yet another stark reminder of how the scars of 9/11 remain only partly healed.
* Originally published in 2017.