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Irish Visit 9/11 Memorial

Mar 11, 2013, 6:30 PM EDT

The Irish pose for a team photo next to the Survivor Tree.

One of the great benefits of the BIG EAST tournament being held in New York is that it often allows for some unique experiences that you won’t find elsewhere. From walking around Times Square to the games themselves in the World’s Most Famous Arena, visits to the Big Apple are special for everyone involved.

On Monday afternoon, the Irish men’s basketball team had another memorable opportunity – touring the 9/11 Memorial in Lower Manhattan.

The great staff told the team about the construction of the Memorial, and shared stories such as that of the Survivor Tree, a Callery pear tree that lived through extensive damage during the Sept. 11 attacks and was relocated to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx before being re-planted at the Memorial in Dec. 2010.


The Survivor Tree

Whether or not we lost a loved one on that tragic Tuesday morning, we all remember where we were when we found out the devastating news.

For Joey Brooks, reading class as a 10- or 11-year-old, when an announcement came over the school’s PA.

For Pat Connaughton, a third grader, when he got home and his parents were “glued to the TV.”

I remember being in Miss Tusa’s seventh grade English class at Ballston Spa Middle School. Each of us has a different story and a different painful memory.

To those of us in the Millennial Generation, Sept. 11 will always stand out as a moment that part of our youthful innocence died. It may have been the first time we closely watched the news, or the first time we had to ask our parents those tough kinds of questions none of us looks forward to answering when we have children of our own.

When you arrive at the intersection of Albany and Greenwich, the first thing that catches your eye is the impressive architecture of Freedom Tower, or One World Trade Center, the new skyscraper set to be completed later this year.

But it’s only when you get around the corner, and see two giant reflecting pools, and the names of 2,983 victims, that it really hits you.


Lt. Col Stephen Hyland, Notre Dame Class of 1977.

Names like Francis Edward Grogan, Stephen N. Hyland Jr., Robert Ferris, and Dora Menchaca, the four Notre Dame alumni whose lives were taken that day.

Grogan (’51), a Holy Cross priest aboard Flight 175, the plane that hit the South Tower.

Hyland (’77), a lieutenant colonel and 20-year U.S. Army veteran, in his office at the Pentagon.

Ferris (’62), a senior vice president of risk management at Aon Corporation, at work on the 102nd floor of the South Tower.

And Menchaca (’77), an associate director of clinical research at Amgen, on Flight 77 on her way home from Washington, D.C.

It’s hard to believe, but six months from today, we’ll recognize the 12th anniversary of Sept. 11. In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, it’s often easy to forget the thousands who lost everything and the significance of that day in our country’s history.

During a week in which the Irish are preparing for what they hope will be a long run in the BIG EAST tournament, Monday afternoon provided a powerful and moving interruption from the madness of March.


The Sept. 11 Memorial staff handed out wristbands at the end of the tour (photo from Eric Atkins’ Instagram page)


Photo from Joey Brooks’ Instagram page


Photo from Pat Connaughton’s Instagram page

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