The tug of emotions was written all over
the face of Tara Stackpole as she sat in the ceremonial courtroom
of Borough Hall at a press conference for the 22nd annual Great
Irish Fair. The widow of hero 9-11 firefighter Capt. Timothy
Stackpole was on hand to see her daughter Kaitlyn, 15, draped
in a striped sash embroidered with gold letters pronouncing her
the fair’s "Colleen Queen."
Tara, sitting next to her youngest son, Terence, 7, watched her daughter and silently wept. Bravely smiling while dabbing away the tears, she was almost certainly weeping for the proud moment in Kaitlyn’s life that she could not share with her husband.
Borough President Marty Markowitz addressed Kaitlyn from the podium saying, "Captain Stackpole’s dedication and bravery will never be forgotten, and I know your father would be extremely proud of all you have accomplished."
In a year of heroes, Stackpole’s story is one that stands out from the pack. The Midwood resident was first recognized for his heroism after surviving an East New York inferno in 1998 that killed two firefighters.
He and four other firefighters had raced into the building, mistakenly believing that an elderly woman was trapped within. The floor gave way, killing two of his fellow firefighters. Stackpole was left critically injured.
Stackpole underwent a heroic recovery and, according to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who called Stackpole "one of the most exceptional human beings I’ve ever met," the firefighter joked from his hospital bed that because of the injury he’d have to retire after 40 years on the job instead of 50. This despite the fact that Stackpole’s severe injuries would have qualified him to retire with a full pension.
Stackpole underwent months of rehabilitation, dozens of surgeries and painful skin grafts and made it back to active duty, promoted to captain at Division 11 in Downtown Brooklyn just days before he died. When he was honored at the 2001 Great Irish Fair, Stackpole said, "I always wanted to come back."
On Sept. 11, Stackpole formed a company that rushed into the South Tower shortly before it collapsed.
As Brooklyn approaches the anniversary of Sept. 11, events like the Great Irish Fair reinforce the importance of remembering and paying tribute to those we have lost, and of not losing sight of our future or our grasp on hope.
The Fair, organized by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, benefits the century-old Catholic Charities, which offers services to the most vulnerable citizens of Brooklyn and Queens.
This year’s fair is dedicated to "all the victims of 9-11 with sincere appreciation to Rudy Giuliani." In addition to remembering Capt. Stackpole, the fair will remember Fire Department chaplain Father Michael Judge. "They were two men of incredible faith put into action every day and especially on Sept. 11," said Father Kevin Sweeney, coordinator of the Irish Apostolate for the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Chief Brehon of this year’s fair is New York Police Department Deputy Chief Michael Collins who will preside over the fair with Kaitlyn Stackpole, who attends Bishop Kearney High School. Collins is no stranger to Brehon duties, having been Grand Marshall of the Bay Ridge Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in 1997 and Marshall of this year’s 27th Annual Irish American Parade in Park Slope.
Like her father, Kaitlyn is already making a difference in Marine Park; she is an active member of Good Shepherd parish and served as president of Good Shepherd’s Student Council.
Acknowledging Tara and Kaitlyn Stackpole, Daily News columnist Michael Daly, upon accepting the Irish Bard award, said, "Irish men are measured by the size of their hearts, but Irish women’s hearts are just a little bit bigger."
This year’s Irishman of the Year Award is Father Patrick West, pastor of Our Lady of Solace in Coney Island.
Fair chairman Al O’Hagan promises that this year’s fair, although a tribute to those lost "will not be an Irish wake but I guess that wouldn’t be such a bad thing." This year’s fair will certainly have an Irish wake’s mixture of gaiety and sadness, again featuring entertainment, food and shopping in addition to Catholic masses.
Look for Irish restaurants - such as Downtown Brooklyn restaurant Eamonn Doran’s - as well arts and crafts, vendors, step dancers, war pipe bands and rides and games for children. There will be seven stages of continuous live entertainment on both days with Sunday featuring the Emerald Society pipe bands from the Police, Fire, Transit, Sanitation and Corrections departments, as well as "out-of-town" pipers The Clann Erin.
On Sept. 7 at 11 am, a mass led by Bishop Thomas Daily will be held in memory of the victims of 9-11 in the tent located in the northeast corner of the park.
The Great Irish Fair takes place Sept.
7 and Sept. 8 from 10 am to 7 pm at Dreier-Offerman Meadows in
Gravesend. Masses will be held in the tent located in the northeast
corner of the park on Sept. 7 at 11 am in memory of the victims
of 9-11, and on Sept. 8 at 9 am and 11 am.
Dreier-Offerman Park is located off Shore Parkway between Cropsey Avenue and Bay 44th Street. Admission is $10, free for children age 12 and younger. For more information about the Catholic Charities of Brooklyn & Queens all (718) 337-6800 or visit the Web site at www.ccbq.org.