The Irish government declares a National Day of Mourning on September 14, 2001. Schools, businesses, and shops are shut down in an unprecedented gesture of sympathy following the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City three days earlier.
Thousands of people queue for hours in front of the United States Embassy in Ballsbridge, Dublin, waiting patiently to sign one of the many books of condolences to be presented to the U.S. government in the aftermath of the attack. At John F. Kennedy’s ancestral home in Dunganstown, County Wexford, the U.S. flag flies at half-mast and the house is closed to visitors.
As it was on the day that Kennedy was assassinated, everyone remembers where they were on September 11. But on September 14 in Ireland, the churches are full and the offices, shops and pubs dark and silent as the country mourns with its American relatives, colleagues and friends.
Bouquets of flowers, teddy bears, candles and messages are left at the Embassy, as thousands stand with heads bowed. The building’s facade is turned into a shrine to those who died in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. There are both tears and applause when 250 firefighters from all over Ireland parade past the Embassy as a mark of respect to the hundreds of firefighters lost in New York. People weep openly as they hear of the casualties and more details emerge of that terrible morning.
The nation prays as industrial and commercial life comes to a halt and offices, government departments and all places of entertainment close for mourning. In every parish and diocese religious services are held, with the biggest, an ecumenical service in Dublin, attended by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, President Mary McAleese and many other cabinet members. At least 2,000 people attempt to squeeze into St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, which holds only 1,500. Outside, a group of U.S. students break into the American national anthem and the crowd falls silent.
The bells of Christ Church Cathedral ring muffled for 90 minutes to mark the occasion, and at 11:00 AM towns and villages fall silent as the people join in a European-wide three minutes of silence. At noon, all trains stop for five minutes and special services are held in practically every town in the country. In Bray, County Wicklow, so many people show up that the church runs out of communion. A number of people approaching the altar are given a blessing instead.
In Dublin’s universities in the months following the attacks, Irish students who were present in New York at the time are offered free counseling to help them deal with the “nightmares and flashbacks.”
A fund for the families of the victims started by Independent News and Media, which donates the money from the sales of all its newspapers on September 14, reaches more than 120,000 punts. It is given to The American Ireland Fund in the presence of U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, Richard Egan. Money is collected throughout the country for many months.
(From: “Ireland’s National Day of Mourning” by Irish America staff, http://www.irishamerica.com, December/January 2002 | Pictured: Taoisearch Bernie Ahern and Tanaiste Mary Harney with members of the Irish Cabinet sign the book of condolences in the U.S. Embassy in Dublin three days after the terrorist attacks)