It may have taken Curragh native and poet Bernard (Barney) O’Keefe 11 years to get to New York with his poem, which was written after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but it was worth the wait.
“It was the the end of a journey which started back in 2001 when I wrote the Ghost of Manhattan poem,” explained Bernard, who has just returned from a visit to the Big Apple.
He presented the Fire Fighters of Engine 1, Ladder 24 with his poem.
“We met Fire Chief Dan Daly and he took us to Ground Zero.
“He told me he all about 9/11,where for month after month, he and his fellow fire fighters had to pick up morsels of humanity in buckets and how this had completely changed round his life. He then took his retirement and became a force for peace and the prevention of the spread of hatred after 9/11.
“We walked to the memorial waterfalls and it was there under the only surviving tree that I surprised him with a mini version of the Ghost of Manhattan for all his help.”
Chief Dan Daly was a former fire fighter with Ladder 24 and he took Bernard to the fire station in time for a shift change
“Dan had arranged for us all to go to his old fire house,” he said. “He had timed the presentation of my poem to coincide with the change over of the shifts. Dan introduced us all to the Fire crews and I gave a little explanation about the poem and then presented it to the duty officer and his crews.
“This all took place between two huge fire engines and beneath the picture of Father Mychal Judge, their Chaplain who was also killed. They were very kind to myself and the lads and gave us all sweat shirts and I got a badge and book too.
“All over the station was reminders of 9/11 including a wonderful Waterford crystal sculpture of the image of the firemen carrying the dead body of Fr Judge.”
Not only was Bernard lucky enough to attend the St Patrick’s Day Parade with his fellow tourists from Kildare, who all dressed up as Bishops for the festivities, but he also was reunited with his uncle Mike O’Keefe after many years. “A great time was had by all,” he added.
- Paula Campbell