- 30 Jan 2012 8:00 AM
Remarks by Ambassador Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis at Handover of World Trade Center Steel:
Good afternoon. It is a real honor for me to be able to present four pieces of steel from the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York to Hungarian Firefighters so that they may continue to honor the memory of the victims of 9/11, who include, as we know, 343 very brave firefighters and paramedics.
I’d like to thank Lieutenant General Dr. György Bakondi, head of the National Directorate for Disaster Management; Lieutenant Colonel Dezső Fekete, Commander of the Kecskemét Fire Department; Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Géza Zólyomi, Commander of the Hatvan City Fire Department, and Captain Gábor Leiz, Commander of Kiskunfélegyháza Fire Department for accepting the steel on behalf of all Hungarian firefighters.
I would also like to recognize Dr. Tamás Kutalik who together along with retired New York City Fire Battalion Chief Dan Daly is the reason that we have this steel in Budapest today. Dr. Kutalik is a personal friend of Chief Daly and helped him forge bonds with his Hungarian firefighter brothers. I know Dr. Kutalik, much like Chief Daly has been very involved in keeping the memory of 9/11 alive and thank you for that.
Chief Daly has traveled the world discussing his experience as a first responder at the World Trade Center where he lost 50 of his own men. He has shared inspiring stories of courage, leadership, selflessness, community and civic activism that rose out of 9/11. It is that inspiration that this steel represents.
Chief Daly has visited Hungary several times and, in the letter that accompanied the steel, he singles out 9/11 remembrances in Hungary that have moved him. This includes the Kiskunfélegyháza to Kecskemét memorial run, in which Embassy runners have participated, and the torchlight procession in Hatvan.
The friendship between Dr. Kutalik and Chief Daly reminds us of the spirit of brotherhood that binds firefighters everywhere – the unique experience of committed first responders, bravely and selflessly risking their lives to help others.
I’d also like to acknowledge and thank our partners from the Red Cross that have joined us today. For the last couple of years, we have held blood donation drives for 9/11and I would encourage everyone to take part in this simple activity that saves lives -- and not just on 9/11.
I understand the steel pieces here today will be incorporated into identical sculptures for public display. This is what hundreds of cities, towns, communities and fire departments have done in the United States and we are honored that this connection will be shared with our friends in Hungary.
This steel has had quite a journey. It is from a girder that was part of the structure of the fallen towers. It was kept in a hanger at JFK Airport in New York before being moved to the New York Fire Department Training Academy. It was there that Fire Chief Daly oversaw it being cut into these four segments that he personally delivered to the U.S. Mission to the UN in New York. From there it was sent by diplomatic pouch to Budapest and is now being presented to the Fire Departments of Kiskunfélegyháza, Kecskemét, Hatvan and Budapest.
Chief Daly was awarded a New York Liberty Medal for his work at Ground Zero, so I think it is only appropriate to close with his words to the people of Hungary:
“After 9/11, the phrase ‘We shall never forget’ has become a mantra of the FDNY. We will never forget. We will never forget those who lost their lives, and those who took their lives. We will never forget to stay vigilant in the war against terror. And we will never forget the kindness you have comforted us with. So when you look at and feel this precious steel, we want you to remember how grateful we are for having you as our friends.”
Source: U.S. Embassy Budapest
Photo: Ambassador Kounalakis hands a piece of steel from the World Trade Center to Lieutenant General Dr. György Bakondi, Director General of the National Directorate for Disaster Management (Embassy photo by Attila Németh)