10th Anniversary 9/11 Belfast ceremony

Madame Oui and I were invited guests to a ceremony held at Belfast City Hall to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the USA.

[Slugger won’t let me embed videos — ed. why not? — but you can view original post at Mr Ulster http://www.mrulster.org/2011/09/10th-anniversary-911-belfast-ceremony.html] [magic wand waved and vids now embedded]

From inside city hall we guests walked together to the northwest corner of the grounds, where there is a dedicated tree and memorial, led by the Consul General, Kamala Lakhdhir, and Lord Mayor, Councillor Niall O’Donnghaile.

The Lord Mayor spoke first, making reference to the common bonds between Belfast, Ireland and the United States. He cited the mass migration from Ireland 150 years ago, but considering that the Consulate General was established in Ireland in 1796, the link has a longer heritage. He continued by saying how this special relationship contributed to the peace process, and how we’re better off than we were ten years ago. (However, as I recall, it was the atrocity of 9/11 that at last untied the knot of decommissioning in Northern Ireland, lest Sinn Féin be unrevokably ostracised by favoured American Congressmen, Peter King et al.)

The Consul General of the United States, Kamala Lakhdhir, then followed with her commemoration. She said that on this day she did not think of the planes and buildings lost, but of the individuals.

She quoted C.S. Lewis, who she noted was born in Belfast: “We meet no ordinary people in our lives.” Saying how right he was, she remarked on the “selfless and collective act of heroism”, as those from the emergency services ran into danger when everyone else was running away.

Lakhdhir also evoked the Belfast motto, “For so much, we shall repay,” expressing gratitude for the acts of compassion of local people, throughout the island, in organising fundraisers and other acts of support for those who lost so much that day.

Mindful of the venue of Belfast City Hall, the Consul General added, “Americans have famously shared your successes and achievements; today you share in our sadness and reflection.”

I liked the sentiment behind the concluding prayer — that we all like to be remembered, but to be remembered we have a duty to remember (can anyone tell me who this minister is?):

Today’s event also included a couple of songs sung by the Belfast Community Gospel Choir, who performed impressively.

And poignantly, a poem was read by a set of twin boys, 10 years of age, whose birthdays coincided with this fateful day. Their poem was one of hope and optimism. Following the commemoration, we guests returned inside the hall and sung “Happy Birthday” to the boys.

I felt that this service, organised by Sandra Robinson in the Lord Mayor’s Office, was the right and appropriate tone — a day of reflection yet positive in spirit. The people of Northern Ireland have long known suffering and are accostomed to getting on with life, all the while carrying personal voids caused by various tragedies.

For me, there is no other place I would have rather been to mark this day than in Belfast.

  • Spud

    Its hard to believe that it was 10 years ago. I was living in NYC at the time and the images of what I saw that day will stay with me forever. I worked on the world trade center after the first attack in 1993 and often looked out from the 98th floor thinking what would have happened if the tower had fell over that time and how many city blocks it would have landed on but I dont think anyone could have predicted what was coming a few years later and the nature of how the buildings fell.
    Almost 700 people of Irish decent died that day some of whom I knew through the construction trade.
    It took a long time to get your head around the fact the towers were gone from the skyline and at the time someone remarked that it looked like a child that had lost his two front teeth.
    I still have a great fondness for NYC and I am looking forward to one day returning to see the finished WTC site.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    The padre appears to be Father Gary Donegan.

  • I also think its Father Gary Donegan from Holy Cross in Ardoyne.

  • It is right and proper that Americans……..and indeed the rest of us commemorate 9/11….but I am just a little uncomfortable that we have gone just a little too far. There has been a certain amount of re-writing History involved.
    Those of us who have noticed this will get little gratitude for pointing it out.
    Americans are an emotional people especially when Patriotism is involved. Without a common History, folkelore, history etc, they seem to be trying too hard to be patriotic……for an “idea” as much as a “place”.
    Its perfectly understandable that 9/11 is marked every year in USA and even understandable that as I sat down to watch a NFL game, I listened to a speech by Robert de Niro.
    It is even understandable that there is a commemoration in Dublin (led by the President) and London (led by “Prince” Charles Windsor) Belfast (led by the Sinn Fein “Lord” Mayor).
    And indeed at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, a minutes silence before the Ireland-USA match.
    But minutes silences at Premiership League Football Games in England?
    In anniversary terms…ten is clearly more significant than six or seventeen…….and this is primarily an American occasion. The world wide “formal” grief dilutes rather than enhances genuine American grief.

    Yet what Ive seen on TV News yesterday (the Belfast commemoration) is actually a reconstructed, invented “empathy”.
    Much of what I heard that day was shameful (bad) or much more “nuanced”.
    The person who told me about the two planes crashing is basically anti-American and added gratuitously that they “had it coming” because of their Middle-East policy.
    Only minutes later I was standing outside a TV shop (ironically near the City Hall) when a loyalist type voice in the watching crowd said that he was glad…….the “Yanks” had after all supplied guns and bombs to the IRA.
    Effectively……minority but significant voices in Belfast were saying that USA deserved it.
    To some extent the world stopped in 2001. Any government no matter how tyrannical was suddenly a “good guy” (excepting the Axis of Evil of course) and any “terrorist” organisation….no matter how “legitimate” was demonised……(excepting those opposing the Axis of Evil).
    It was Irish Republicanisms good fortune that the Clinton peace efforts pre-dated 9/11. And Unionisms ill fortune.

    Of course you dont have to live in Belfast to be anti-American. Leftists in Britain see USA as a capitalist imperialist power. Conservatives see American imperialism as usurping the British imperialism that USA dismantled after WW2.
    Yet in the horror of 9/11…….it was only right……that the World should shake hands with a neighbour in grief. “sorry for your loss”. rather like a neighbour who has lost a teenage child in a road accident.
    Thats enough. No need to gratuitously offend the grieving neighbour and say that the child was a boy racer who reguarly drove thru the village at well over the speed limit. Nor any need to reply negatively when the grieving neighbour replies to the handshake with an unsolicited “my Johnny was so careful”. Let it go.
    The grieving period does not allow for “nuance” but I have the feeling that the grieving period is being preserved in part to prevent a nuanced discussion.

    Lest we forget, just two days after 9/11 on a “live” edition of the BBCs Question Time, the American ambassador to Britain was reduced to near tears by Muslim audience members not fully on message with Americas grief. The BBC apologised for the unbalanced audience selection.
    Lest we forget that 9/11 and the irony of Britain supporting USA in the war on terrorism while USA was not supportive of Britain fighting Irish terrorism is standard fare for British comedians such as Al Murrays “Pub Landlord” alter ego.

    The grieving process and 9/11 “commemoration” is firmly under control.
    But it would be false if the American Consul in Belfast went away from the City Hall commemoration with the notion that the unity displayed by republican/nationalist and unionist councillors was not exactly the mood of a significant number of their own constituents ten years ago.
    Thats a memory that “new” Belfast can do without.
    As is the notion that we could ever get together at the City Hall to jointly commemorate our own tragedies.

  • Zig70

    A terrible tragegy, but I would’ve like to have heard some recognition of the innocent people in Iraq and Afganistan who lost their lives as a result. Around 100k in Iraq alone according to wiki. Maybe I missed it.

  • lamhdearg

    There was a lady who sounded American, talking on radio Ulster, she was telling us (the listeners) how good it was that the P.S.N.I. and the F.S.N.I. had done lots of good work helping support the New York versions of the same, she finished by saying that this was a continuation of all the good history between them (or words to that effect), i stop my car and looked for a paper bag to breath into, as i remembered the New York versions and their many fundraising events they held for the I.R.A.

  • Kevsterino

    Fitz, American patriotism is overdone in some circles, but speaking for my family at least it stems from military and naval service from each generation for over an hundred years. Granted, we have our extremists with their “America Love it or Leave it” bumper stickers and the “my country right or wrong” bunch. But for most Americans I know, it is simply a debt felt to those who fell defending their way of life, and the ambition to make the country live up to those beautiful words in the Declaration of Independence.

  • As with everything its a matter of balance.
    The melting pot nature of American people and the fact that their land is a movable concept (Manifest Destiny merely pre-dated Nazi Living Space by 100 years)……..1776 America very different from 1840s America or even the America that the Southern expansionists wanted into Central America.
    But of course youre right. The kinda Americans who watch Fux News are just noisy but in my experience atypical.