Remembering when our own 'tower' fell
MEATHMAN'S DIARY: John Donohoe
If anything shows how quickly time flies, it is the fact that we have just marked the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the day terrorists launched an indescribable attack on the ‘Twin Towers’ of the World Trade Centre in New York. 9/11 of course is 11th September - the Americans put the month before the date.
We can all remember where we were on that date in 2001. It was a carefree September – apart from a foot and mouth scare which had dominated the headlines for the six months before that, but was coming to an end. Meath were preparing to take part in the All-Ireland senior football final against Galway (imagine – our last time to appear on the ultimate day of the championship at Croke Park), and with foot and mouth closing Dalgan Park, the Meath team was training at Dunsany GAA grounds. The atmosphere there had turned into a bit of a carnival - some would say circus - on those sunny evenings.
One of my sisters was working in America that summer, as a secretary to an attorney at Martha’s Vineyard. My parents – having been crowned ‘Mr and Mrs Dunsany’ in a fundraising competition at the GAA club, were enjoying their prize holiday in the northwest of Ireland, and saw the planes crash into the towers on the TV in a pub, but initially thought it was a movie that was on as the volume was turned down.
It wasn’t until my sister rang from America that night to say that she was okay, that I realised she was actually in New York. And that she and her friend were planning to visit the Twin Towers that day. But her friend’s sister, with whom they were staying, rang them from the city and told them not to come in near the place.
My sister had just flown from Boston, where she had visited Ann Dungan, a Dunsany woman living there at the time. She was en route home to Ireland but with flights now grounded, was stranded in New York. She was able to fly out the following Sunday morning on the first Aer Lingus flight out of NY. There were emotional scenes at Dublin Airport as the plane was carrying a lot of Aer Lingus crew members, and RTE was there to film their arrival back.
On Monday, Ann Dungan’s father, Jim, came to the house to chat to my sister about her visit to Boston and the US, and sat in the kitchen with her and my grandmother for the afternoon. A tall man who worked at steel erection, he was Dunsany’s ‘Tower’.
The following morning, while tending to his cattle, he took ill and died shortly afterwards, exactly a week after the towers fell in New York. Our own tower had fallen, at the age of just 61. While he had some health problems and procedures, nobody had expected this sudden departure.
Sean Boylan led a minute’s silence for him at the Meath training sessions. So as we look back at the fall of the NY towers, we also remember Dunsany’s big man, 20 years gone this week.
(From Meath Chronicle, Saturday 18th September 2021).