As someone old enough to remember watching the events of 9/11 unfold on television, it was amazing to experience the tenth anniversary of those attacks on New York, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon in the country that, more than any other, shares the tragedy of that day with the United States.
I’m not saying that no countries other than the U.S. and Ireland suffered a great loss on 9/11, but I’ve read reports that six of the victims were born in Ireland, and fully 1,000 of the three thousand people killed on that day had some personal/ancestral tie to Ireland. Additionally, Boston (the point of origin for two of the flights) has a large and active Irish-American community, and the New York City police and fire departments have historically counted a high percentage of Irish Americans among their ranks. With numbers like those out there, I think I’m on relatively stable ground saying that Ireland felt (and continues to feel) the pain and loss of 9/11 more deeply than any country other than the United States.
The bond between Ireland and the United States is nothing new. The two countries had a special bond long before 9/11. When Irish immigrants came to the United States in the mid-1,800s, the United States was their promised land. Visiting Ireland has been seen by generations of Americans as one of the dream trips of a lifetime. For many it is viewed as a return home. That we (American and Irish alike) are bound today by the tragic events of 9/11 only serves to strengthen those ties.
The Irish are a notably opinionated lot, and in the short time that I’ve been here, I’ve enjoyed hearing their take on all things political, spiritual, and fiscal. But in the days leading up to this year’s commemoration of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I couldn’t help but notice that that day was on everyone’s mind, and nobody shied away from talking about it (particularly when they divined that I was American). On 9/11/11 (or 11/9/11) all across Ireland there were dozens of memorials, tributes, and commemorations. I was lucky enough to attend an official event hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Dublin, and was genuinely moved by the depths to which 9/11 seems to have affected the Irish, from the men and women seated next to me on the bus on up to president Mary McAleese.
I have to admit that lately I’ve begun to feel the strain of living away from home, and of being out of my comfort zone. While I hate that it comes at the cost of thousands of lives, it’s been nice to feel a certain kinship to my new neighbors. Though time and distance may blunt the ties between an immigrant and his/her homeland, it’s been made clear to me from the reaction of the Irish people to 9/11, that, though their sons, daughters, and ancestors may have emigrated, they are still a part of Ireland, and Ireland is still a part of them.
Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:
The Logistics of International Moving