The views of Kinsale Harbor and the river feeding it were what I was seeking on my impromptu drive around the this charming city on the coast of Ireland. I was on assignment to learn more about the connection between my adopted home of Newport, Rhode Island and its twin city of Kinsale, Ireland so the horrific events of September 11, 2001 were far from my mind.
The itinerary was up to me so I did what comes naturally, I decided to get lost. That’s right, I like to drive in new cities (even when the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car) sans map and find my way around. Winding up the narrow roads along the green pastures with my Editor, Cynthia Bogart of The Daily Basics riding shotgun, we saw a sign for a “9/11 Garden of Remembrance.” Spontaneity as our guide we followed the lead, chatted along the way about how lovely the smell of freshly rained-on grass smelled, and then we stopped dead in our tracks.
An imposing metal gate painted fire engine red left no doubt we had reached a 911 Memorial site.
A flood of emotions came rushing out as we entered. Rows of trees tagged with the names of victims were planted in unison, perfectly lined up and creating a tunnel of light below its canopy. Some of the trees had makeshift personal memorials where people had added t-shirts or messages to certain firefighters. At the end of the sunlit track lies more of the rolling hills that Kinsale is so famous for which made a breathtaking backdrop for the memorial gardens.
To the right of the grove of trees sits a stone pillar with an ornamental iron replica of the firemen’s badge. In the center of the badge is the number 343 (the number of firemen who lost their lives on that day). An anonymous visitor draped an American flag around the base. Sightseers are invited to sit and reflect on one of the red benches and spend some time feeling the powerful connection between the people of Kinsale and what happened on that fateful day. Cynthia and I did just that. We were both moved to tears and grateful that we were “called” to this place.
A local, Kathleen Murphy who was friends with the fireman chaplain Father Michael Judge, created the memorial. She owned some land in Ringfinnan, Kinsale and used it for the garden dedicatory. Apparently in her work as a nurse in NYC she became friends with many firemen. Her compassion for these heroes will live on forever because of this great act. We heard that Kathleen died and her relatives added a tree for her as well. It’s only fitting. Kathleen, thank you so much for your generous heart.
These random acts of kindness help heal the wounds we Americans feel. I always knew I would like Kinsale because of my sailing and Newport connection, but now I LOVE Kinsale because of Kathleen and the bond of 9/11.
I would like to thank Trivago, the most awesome hotel-booking site, for allowing me to choose my city in Ireland. Being treated by them for a stay that provided me with an opportunity to see the 9/11 Garden of Remembrance was an experience of a lifetime.