The Bronx, New York born Michael Burke didn’t just arrive on the scene in Castleisland in late 2005.
He burst onto its Main Street business stage and took over the running of a public house and put his name across over the front door and windows.
He entertained his customers with stories from the dark days of the September 11th 2001 World Trade Centre attacks – then just a handful of years before.
He was, he told them, part of the volunteer rescue team charged with the overwhelming task of finding survivors and eventually clearing the mountains of tangled wreckage the scenes of which left the city and the world in a state of deep shock.
Many a Doubting Thomas
There was many a doubting Thomas on the opposite side of the counter as he told them of meetings with the likes of singing and film stars, Olivia Newton John, Brooke Shields and former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Evander Holyfield in the early days of the site clearance work.
That was until Michael found his trump card.
Among his still packed possessions at that time was a photo album with all the eye widening evidence showing that, not only was he there, but that he played an active role in the dog rough early days of the grueling work to the extent that it took a toll on his health.
The Great Atrocity
That was then and on this September 11th the world will remember the great atrocity on its 19th anniversary.
Michael Burke settled in Castleisland and is living here today.
“I arrived in this town in late 2005. I opened my pub on November 8th that year and closed it on November 8th the following year,” said Michael with a backward glance – without regrets.
He is now embarking on a 32 county mission across Ireland and raising 9/11 awareness and funds for LauraLynn – Ireland’s Children’s Hospice.
Specially Designed 9/11 Jersey
Michael’s plan involves presenting a specially designed 9/11 O’Neill’s jersey to each county and have the players there autograph it and raffle it to raise funds for a local charity of their choice.
On this trip, Michael will be wearing a jersey which will be autographed by the high profile players he will meet on the road and this will be presented to LauraLynn – Ireland’s Children’s Hospice.
Signed by Mick O’Connell
This jersey has already been signed by Mick O’Connell on Valentia Island during a visit by Michael to meet his great hero one day last week.
“On September 8th I leave Castleisland heading to Limerick, Clare, Galway and then onto Northern Ireland to fly the 9/11 flag and presenting jerseys to teams,” said Michael ahead of his great road trip.
Kerry Players to Sign Jersey
“I also have donated a jersey to Donalwalslivelife and Peter Keane is getting the Kerry players to sign it and give it to the Walsh family.
“We will arrange a photo opportunity with a few of the Kerry team presenting the jersey to the Walsh family.
“I’m also giving a jersey to a local Castleisland charity yet to be decided on and I’m now looking for people to apply on behalf of their charity for the jersey.
Castleisland Charities Invited
“If anyone wants to donate, on the left corner of your cheque write 9/11 Tribute Memorial or call LauraLynn Donate and mention 9/11 Tribute Memorial.
“If the charities in and around Castleisland wish to have a jersey for their cause they can see one at John Brennan’s Barbers and they can get in touch with me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Garda Colm Horkan Memorial
The Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo email address arises as Michael’s father was a native of that area and his mom was from Charlestown, Co. Mayo.
It will be in his mother’s town that Michael will, somewhat poignantly, end his journey by presenting a 9/11 jersey that the Mayo team will have signed.
This he hopes will help raise funds for a new pitch and walkway in memory of the recently murdered native, Garda Colm Horkan who was a friend of his.
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