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A forest grows for fallen firefighters

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Stephen McKinley

Three hundred and 43 firefighters were cut down on Sept. 11 on the terror attacks on the World Trade Center. In their memory, a woman from Cork has decided to grow a forest.

Kathy Murphy, a nurse who has lived in Queens since the 1970s, was so moved by the tragic deaths of so many brave firefighters that she decided to plant a tree in memory of each one.

Assisted by locals from her home locality of Ringfinnan, Kinsale, Co. Cork, she planted the first 43 trees during the day of Nov. 20, on a windy slope of land. The remaining 300 trees will be planted during the next two planting seasons, the springtime and the fall, she said.

Each evergreen tree was affixed with the name of a firefighter, and an oak tree was planted to commemorate Father Mychal Judge, the firefighters’ much-loved chaplain, one of the first FDNY personnel to die on the morning of the 11th.

“There were 19 men from where I live lost at the World Trade Center,” Murphy said, “and nine more from another area. I did this because it may be of some comfort to the families and to the children.”

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“I had gone to some services down on Fifth Avenue for firefighters. They were often younger men with young families and many of them were Irish.

“Although the first Christmas, the families will likely get a lot of support, I think in years to come, people will forget. [The tragedy] is going to shape the children’s whole loves.”

Although the day was blustery, Murphy was proud that her friends and neighbors turned out in force to assist with the planting.

“They were extremely responsive,” she said. “They came to help and we had them all there for food afterward. They all tried to plant a tree each.”

Murphy explained that the trees are about five feet apart, and until they grow to a certain height, they will have a weatherproof nametag for each firefighter. Eventually she hopes that a permanent metal nameplate will be put at the foot of each tree.

“A friend came to me and he said he had an oak which he’d grown from a seed,” Murphy said. “Originally, I had thought of a yew tree for Father Judge, but I realized that a yew grows extremely slowly.”

She added, “The oak is an ancient and majestic symbol, and the evergreens seemed to me to be like the firefighters — they are there all the time.”

Murphy’s hope is that in years to come, the families and children of the lost firefighters will be able to visit the trees and see them grow into a forest that will continue to live on in their memory.

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