Madame Oui and I were invited guests to a ceremony held at Belfast City Hall to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the USA.From inside city hall we guests walked together to the northwest corner of the grounds, where there is a dedicated tree and memorial, led by the Consul General, Kamala Lakhdhir, and Lord Mayor, Councillor Niall O’Donnghaile. The Lord Mayor spoke first, making reference to the common bonds between Belfast, Ireland and the United States. He cited the mass migration from Ireland 150 years ago, but considering that the Consulate General was established in Ireland in 1796, the link has a longer heritage. He continued by saying how this special relationship contributed to the peace process, and how we’re better off than we were ten years ago. (However, as I recall, it was the atrocity of 9/11 that at last untied the knot of decommissioning in Northern Ireland, lest Sinn Féin be unrevokably ostracised by favoured American Congressmen, Peter King et al.)
The Consul General of the United States, Kamala Lakhdhir, then followed with her commemoration. She said that on this day she did not think of the planes and buildings lost, but of the individuals.She quoted C.S. Lewis, who she noted was born in Belfast: “We meet no ordinary people in our lives.” Saying how right he was, she remarked on the “selfless and collective act of heroism”, as those from the emergency services ran into danger when everyone else was running away. Lakhdhir also evoked the Belfast motto, “For so much, we shall repay,” expressing gratitude for the acts of compassion of local people, throughout the island, in organising fundraisers and other acts of support for those who lost so much that day. Mindful of the venue of Belfast City Hall, the Consul General added, “Americans have famously shared your successes and achievements; today you share in our sadness and reflection.”
I liked the sentiment behind the concluding prayer — that we all like to be remembered, but to be remembered we have a duty to remember (can anyone tell me who this minister is?):
Today’s event also included a couple of songs sung by the Belfast Community Gospel Choir, who performed impressively.And poignantly, a poem was read by a set of twin boys, 10 years of age, whose birthdays coincided with this fateful day. Their poem was one of hope and optimism. Following the commemoration, we guests returned inside the hall and sung “Happy Birthday” to the boys. I felt that this service, organised by Sandra Robinson in the Lord Mayor’s Office, was the right and appropriate tone — a day of reflection yet positive in spirit. The people of Northern Ireland have long known suffering and are accostomed to getting on with life, all the while carrying personal voids caused by various tragedies. For me, there is no other place I would have rather been to mark this day than in Belfast.