On Wednesday night we honored six glorious heroes of the Irish American community in a ceremony at Faneuil Hall. There were over 200 present at an event that has become an eloquent tribute to those who give their all. Boston Irish Consul General Brendan O Caollai and former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn were both on hand.
Guinness and their "Made of More" campaign were the evening co-hosts.
The two names that will immediately resonate are Lieutenant Edward Walsh and Firefighter Michael Kennedy, who both lost their lives in a tragic fire in a Back Bay brownstone in March of this year.
Their families remain intensely proud of their heroic family members. “Ed grew up in a firefighting family as it was really in his blood,” Walsh’s widow Kristen said.
Walsh, 43, was the father of three children: Dillon, Morgan and Griffin. Kristen accepted his award stating, "Ed would have loved to have been here – Guinness, Irish music and Irish pride."
“Our children will grow up knowing their dad was a hero who saved people’s lives that day, but he was also a hero who touched the lives of many through his charity work,” Kristen said.
Kennedy also died in the nine-alarm fire. His mother Kathy remembers the “incredible outpouring of sympathy, love and support from the public.”
Kathy has dedicated herself to raising money for equipment research and education of the Boston Fire Department.
“It occurred to me as the mother of a firefighter that I was unaware of the huge issues they faced,” said Kathy, who is now determined to do her best to put that right.
His father Paul Kennedy clutched the picture of his dead son and spoke movingly about his sacrifice and how his heart was broken. Simple, eloquent, yet heartbreaking.
Other heroes honored on the night included Katie O'Halloran, who has spent a life without arms but now has newly fitted bionic arms.
Born with a rare condition that left her without arms and a short, deformed right leg, the beautiful Katie has never let her incapacity stop her, and her bravery ignited a massive wave of support in the Boston.
Katie has commenced wearing her new limbs. An inspirational young woman, she is an amazing story.
So too is Mark Porter, a Donegal native and cancer survivor who has since dedicated his time to raising funds to beat cancer. In 2012 he founded the Let’s Stop Cancer Foundation which helps families stricken by the disease to meet the practical needs of rent, mortgage, food and bills – a foundation that is truly needed.
John Dunleavy is another truly inspirational figure. A Down Syndrome son of Irish parents, Dunleavy has been an inspiration to all who know him.
He is a member of the Self-Advocate Advisory Council for Massachusetts Down Syndrome and recently addressed a 600-delegate conference on the topic. “I was very happy because I was given such an amazing privilege to speak. I had the power to inspire others with Down Syndrome to follow their heart and achieve their dreams,” John said.
The other honoree is Officer James Flanagan, a Roscommon native based in Weymouth, MA who received the highest award given by the state of Massachusetts to a police officer.
James risked his life to save a man from a burning car and pulled him from the wreck with no thought of his own safety. “I was just doing my job. This is what I signed up for," the modest officer said.
Heroes all indeed and a night to remember.