Tribute to Kingdom men who helped rebuild Ground Zero

Anne Lucey Irish Examiner

To listen to the broadcast, please click here.

Scores of Kerrymen working on rebuilding the Twin Towers site in New York feature in a radio programme due to be broadcast tomorrow.

Kingdom Rising tells the story of the men from Kerry who worked in concrete, steel, carpentry and architecture to rebuild Ground Zero and the 9/11 memorial after the terrorist attacks.

Anniversary ceremony on the site of the World Trade Center before rebuilding began. Photo Irish Examiner

Anniversary ceremony on the site of the World Trade Center before rebuilding began. Photo Irish Examiner

The Irish are synonymous with construction in the city.

“Back to when the unions started in New York, Kerry men had a strong presence in 18 A, the concrete union in New York,” said programme producer and research Audrey Galvin. “There were so many of them working in Tower 1, it was nicknamed ‘The Kerry tower’.”

Audrey uncovered the story through her cousin Paul Kenny, who works in security on the site, as well as through photographs which started appearing on Twitter.

The documentary was recorded in New York over five days last November.

It hears from Detective Tony Curtin, originally from Clounmacon in Listowel, now with the city’s Major Crimes Unit.

He had spent months at the site, in the investigation after 9/11 and also at Staten Island sifting throughout the debris, mainly for body parts.

Donal O’Sullivan, from Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry, is the owner of Navillus Construction, which won the concrete contract for the 9/11 memorial.

“The memorial is where the two towers stood, all the new buildings are outside of that,” said Mr O’Sullivan.

“We took it from the ground up, from the bottom to the plaza level, which is about 90 feet. We build the concrete work and the plaza. It was the biggest single contract and it was a major job for us,” he said.

The memorial was dedicated on September 11, 2011, in a ceremony attended by families of the victims.

Last year, a museum was dedicated at the site.

The radio programme hears from a number of eyewitnesses to 9/11, as well as those who joined in the recovery and rebuilding, including Paudie Spillane, from Spa in Killarney.

New York has been his home for 30 years and he now works as a carpenter on tower 3. “No matter what you touch on the basement there is still dust there,” he said, “probably human remains — in the back of your mind you never forget a day like that. We knew this site would be a part of history so a lot of guys from Kerry on the site, signed the last beam going up on tower 4.”

Audrey Galvin, meanwhile, said: “Kingdom Rising tells the stories of the men from Kerry who have worked on one of the most symbolic sites to terror and freedom in the world.

“What they built are meaningful tributes to what happened at Ground Zero and their handprints are part of the history here.”

The programme was completed with the support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, Sound and Vision Fund. It will be broadcast on Radio Kerry at 10am tomorrow.

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