Sunday, 13 September 2009
The Chieftains held New York’s hand after 9/11
Paddy Moloney's memorable music at Ground Zero
By GEORGINA BRENNAN , Former Irish Voice Reporter
This story first appeared in the Irish Voice newspaper, on October 16, 2001
"Will you hold my hand?" asked Lauren Murphy as she braced herself to greet her husband's mourners. Lauren was speaking to Paddy Moloney, founder of the Chieftains, the Grammy award winning musical ambassadors of Ireland.
Moloney and the band had come to New York specially to play at the memorial service for Lauren's husband Matthew, who considered himself the Chieftains' biggest fan.
Matthew O'Mahony, a merchant banker for Cantor Fitzgerald, had been on the 95th floor of Tower One on September 11. His death brought thousands of mourners to St. Ignatius Loyola Church on Park Avenue on the afternoon of October 10, 2001.
It also brought the Chieftains to grieve the loss of their number one fan. "He never missed any of our concerts," said Moloney sadly. Moloney wanted to come for Lauren, but he also felt that he had some work to do in New York.
Down at Ground Zero the following day, almost no one went untouched as the Chieftains leader remembered the fallen. As mechanical diggers and rescue workers worked side by side in the shadow of the breaking day, Moloney played his tin whistle surrounded by a small group of Irish cops, friends and his daughter Edin.
Moloney played the haunting "Taimse 'imo Chodladh" (I am asleep, don't wake me), an Irish wake song. As the weight of devastation sat heavy on the crowd's hearts Moloney played another lament "Dochas" (hope).
The old Irish tradition of waking the dead that inspired Moloney to come to Ground Zero also made a difference to the rescue workers as they stopped, in the midst of smoke rising from the pits, to gaze at the sight of a small man playing music larger than the city itself.
"When I left the service yesterday, I knew my work here was not done. I felt my visit was not complete," he said. "I hadn't planned to play those tunes, I hadn't rehearsed.
“That often happens; you get inspired at that very split second. Then as I played I felt I saw them, all the faces, faces without images. The mechanics of the music disappeared and my heart went into it. I got the shivers up my back. But now I feel more relaxed," he said as he prepared to catch a flight back to Ireland. His personal tribute was done.
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