Miracle on Stairwell B

In 2011 Sean Egan was commissioned by American Ambassador Dan Rooney to create a sculpture to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Sean immediately thought of the story of, ‘Miracle on Stairwell B’and from this drew his inspiration to create his sculpture, which is a visual representation of one of the few ‘good news’ stories that came from the tragic events of September 11th, 2001.

A group of FDNY officers were one of the first respondents to the north tower (the first to be hit) in New York on 9/11. They immediately started climbing stairwell B in intense heat and carrying 50lb of equipment. They were on their way up when they first heard and realized that the second tower had been hit and was collapsing. Chief officer Jay Jonas instinctively knew that it would not be long before their tower also collapsed, and made the decision to exit the tower.

On the way down they found a woman, Josephine Harris, with a police officer. Jay Jonas had to decide to risk his, and his men’s lives, by trying to help them, or to leave and save themselves. Of course, (despite Josephine’s protests) they elected to carry her out, but this slowed them down significantly. When they reached the fourth floor they thought they felt fresh air, but it was really the building starting to collapse, so Jay Jonas radioed in their position. And that is just what it did, collapse all around them. The searchers, even though they knew their position, could not locate where stairwell B was. Eventually though, one of the fire officers called Mickey Krossregained consciousness, looked up and saw daylight. He reached up his hand through the rubble and heard the words “We’ve found someone”.

It is this moment in time that Sean has recreated, where the hands of Mickey Krossand the search team member are just about to touch. Josephine Harris survived and became known as the ‘Angel of stairwell B’. The fire officers survived because, in rescuing Josephine, they were in the right place at the right time. Unfortunately, most of the officers above and below the fourth floor died in the collapse of the north tower. Josephine lived until January 2011 and was given a full official fireman’s funeral.

On Sunday, September 11, 2011 U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Daniel M. Rooney and his wife Mrs. Patricia Rooney held a Ceremony of Peace and Reflection at the RDS Dublin to mark the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks,at which Sean unveiled his sculpture "Miracle on Stairwell B". At the ceremony Ambassador Rooney said “Though we are ever mindful of our losses, our deep and painful losses, today we together look forward to the future. We look forward to a better and brighter future. We stand together, today in this place of remembrance, and every day looking forward to a time without fear, without war.”

UachtaránnahÉireann, President Mary McAleese and An Taoiseach Enda Kenny (Prime Minister) attended the event as did former New York Police Department Lieutenant William Cosgrove and New York firemen Michael O’Rourke, Thomas O’Rourke and Chief Dan Daly. In her remarks President McAleese said “Ireland stood then, as we stand today, shoulder to shoulder with our friends and family in the United States.”

The sculpture is now on display at the American Embassy in Dublin.

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