9/11 Remembered in Ireland

 9/11 Remembered in Ireland

The Stackpole family and Bradys with Capt. Timothy Stackpole’s tree.

By Katie McFadden

The events of September 11, 2001, not only hit close to home. It was a day that moved the world. Among the fallen, 343 firefighters died, 27 of them who called the Rockaway peninsula home, making the community one of the hardest hit areas by loss. And while the loss is personal for those in the community, the devastation left ripples, some that reached more than 3,000 miles away, where in a village in the coastal town of Kinsale in County Cork, Ireland, a woman created a garden of 343 trees, each one dedicated for the firefighters who died on 9/11. Now as New York Irish American families make their way to the motherland, The Kinsale 9/11 Garden of Remembrance has become a must see stop.

The Dowdell family with Lt. Kevin Dowdell’s tree.

Within the garden, guests are surrounded by a sea of trees, each given a name plaque in memory of all 343 firefighters killed on September 11, 2001. The garden is complete with a few memorial benches and statues, and a 343 sign, set to a backdrop of Ireland’s rolling green hills, with waters from the River Brandon and the Celtic Sea visible in the distance. It has been described as a place of beauty, peace and a solemn reminder of the sacrifices that the people that each tree is named for, made on September 11, 2001.

Kathleen Cait Murphy, of Kinsale Ireland, had worked in New York as a nurse at Lenox Hill Hospital for more than 30 years. In that time, she got to witness the bravery of New York City’s firefighters, including her close friend, Father Mychal Judge, the first casualty of the attack on the World Trade Center. Murphy was so moved by the actions of the FDNY firefighters that day, that a few months after, she dedicated a piece of her land in Ringfinnan, Kinsale, in memory of the 343 firefighters. Since then, the Kinsale 9/11 Garden of Remembrance has become a place where friends and family of 9/11 victims, as well as tourists across the world, have stopped to pay their respects. Even after Murphy died in 2011, the memorial garden remains a beautiful, solemn and peaceful place. Murphy’s nephew, John Murphy, continues to maintain it, along with Jeremiah Aherne, a retired Cork City Firefighter who volunteers as its keeper.

Among the visitors to the garden have been many families from Rockaway and Breezy Point, who were directly affected by 9/11. And even though it’s 3,100 miles away, local families have been so moved by the memorial, that they’ve been supporting it from near and far. For instance, last summer, John and Veronica Roberts of Breezy Point, who lost their son, Firefighter Michael Roberts, on 9/11, sent American flags to the keepers of the garden, to be placed by each tree in time for July 4. On a stop just two weeks ago, the FDNY Emerald Society donated $5,000 for the upkeep of the garden. They visited just a week after the Stackpole family of Belle Harbor, who made it their first stop of their family vacation and left a donation on behalf of the Stackpole Foundation.

For Tara Stackpole, the wife of late Captain Timothy Stackpole, it was a return trip, as she had first visited in 2012. But it was a first for her children, and now grandchildren, who weren’t even alive when PopPop Timmy died, yet talk about him as if they know him, especially his namesake, Timmy, now 7 years old. Tara, her boyfriend, big Pete Brady, her daughter, Kaitlyn and her husband, Michael, their two kids, her son, Terence Stackpole, a captain in the Marine Corps, and Pete and Kerry Brady, along with their three kids, all made Kinsale, Ireland the first stop of their trip to Ireland for the Notre Dame-Navy weekend in Dublin.

“Big Pete and I had gone, and we were moved by this very simple, loving gesture. It was beautiful. We knew we wanted to go back,” Tara Stackpole said.

Stackpole says her children and grandkids were just as moved, seeing the memorial for the first time on August 19. “Timmy was so touched to see grandpa’s name next to his tree. It was super moving for the kids. Even though they’re so little, they’ve all grown up in the fire department culture, so they knew this was a solemn place and we were there to say prayers. We left some rosary beads on the tree. It was really nice,” Stackpole said.

“Timmy and I never got to travel to Ireland as a family together. I think he would absolutely love this. He came from Irish roots, and he would be so proud to see this natural, grassroots effort that was so lovingly done,” Stackpole said. It won’t be their last visit.

The Stackpole’s visit came just three months after the Dowdell family of Breezy Point visited for the first time. In May, the family of late Lieutenant Kevin Dowdell, including his wife, RoseEllen and her boyfriend, Dowdell’s sons, Patrick and James, and their wives and children, made Kinsale a stop on their Ireland trip. For James Dowdell, who followed in his father’s footsteps, joining the FDNY in 2006, he knew the memorial garden would be a place his family would visit when he found out about it.

“It was very moving, knowing my father had such a strong Irish history. He played the bagpipes in the band, and he loved Irish music and culture, so to be there for the first time as a family and seeing this memorial and his tree and having all of the grandkids next to the tree really just made us remember him and miss him. It makes us proud to bring the kids there to keep remembering him,” Dowdell said. “It was definitely a great experience. The kids talk about Grandpa Kevin like they met him. My oldest, also named Kevin, is 10, so to be there and have the kids talking about him and asking questions made the whole trip worth it.”

As a firefighter himself, Dowdell was moved by the efforts of a woman in Ireland to create a memorial to the fallen 9/11 firefighters. “It shows you how far 9/11 has touched people all around the world. For people to remember what those 343 firefighters did that day is something that is super important. What those firemen did that day was the definition of heroic and brave, so for people to remember that in a different country is very nice to see,” Dowdell said.

And James says his dad would appreciate it too. “He would love the placement of the garden and the peacefulness of it and the fact that someone took it upon themselves to do something so natural and so beautiful. I think he would love it. With him being of Irish descent, he would be proud to see people from his heritage remember.”

Both the Stackpoles and the Dowdells recommend that everyone make Kinsale a stop on their next trip to Ireland. In addition to the memorial garden, both families stopped at a restaurant in town called The White House, which has a tribute wall filled with prayer cards for 9/11 firefighters and fallen American service members.

The Ringfinnan Garden of Remembrance is a bit off the beaten path but can be found on Google maps. If anyone is interested in supporting the garden, donations can be made through the Stackpole Foundation, at stackpolefoundation.org. Click to donate button and make a note for “343 trees Ireland.”

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