Nine men and women who acted selflessly in the face of tragedy were honored at Faneuil Hall Thursday night at the Irish Heroes of New England Awards.
Boston Mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh, son of immigrants from Galway, made an unscheduled appearance at the ceremony honoring police and firefighters who responded in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings and Boston Marathon bombings, as well as citizens who worked to provide financial assistance to victims.
Walsh, 46, said the region had endured harrowing events over the past year.
“It just shows you how strong we are as a country, how strong we are as a region in New England, and how strong we are as a city in Boston,” he said, “and all the remarkable people that step up to the plate when it’s needed, whether it’s an act of bravery in a particular incident or how we come together as a community.”
Among those honored was MBTA police Officer Richard Donohue Jr., who suffered severe blood loss when he was struck during a shootout in Watertown with the alleged Marathon bombers on April 19.
In an interview, Donohue downplayed his heroism, pointing instead to police who kept him alive and later captured alleged bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. His brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in the confrontation.
“You can’t think of anything greater than to catch one of the most wanted men in America and to save a fellow officer’s life in the same night,” Donohue, 33, said.
Donohue said each moment of life seems more precious to him since surviving his injuries, and he is taking his recovery “day by day.”
Other honorees included Michael Sheehan and James D. Gallagher, co-founders of The One Fund Boston; Ken Casey, bassist for the Dropkick Murphys and founder of the charitable Claddagh Fund; Alana and Claire O’Brien, co-founders of a benefit for Jane Richard, 7, who lost a leg in the bombings; Lieutenant J. Paul Vance, a Connecticut State Police spokesman; Boston police Officer Richard Moriarty, who helped save Donohue’s life; and Boston fire Lieutenant Sean O’Brien, who tended the wounded in the aftermath of the bombings.
Presented by the Irish Emigrant newspaper in cooperation with the IrishCentral website and Irish America magazine, the awards honor Irish Americans for “selfless acts of bravery and dedication,” according to a statement from the Irish Emigrant.
Also present for the awards Thursday were Bill and Denise Richard of Dorchester, the parents of Martin Richard, 8, who was killed in the blasts, and Jane Richard.
The Richards declined to comment, but Sean O’Brien, 46, spoke admiringly of their resilience.
“It’s amazing the ability of that family to piece themselves back together and try to move on,” he said.