Sadness in Irish Parade
Lost 9/11 heroes will be missed on 5th Ave. tomorrow

Daily News Staff Writer

More than 300,000 are expected to march in tomorrow's St. Patrick's Day Parade, but it may be the ones absent who weigh most heavily on the minds of participants and spectators.Missing from the 241st annual parade will be hundreds of Irish-Americans, many of them cops and firefighters who gave their lives Sept. 11.

Longtime parade participants vowed to draw inspiration from their fallen brethren as they move along the route.

"We'll toast their spirits, and they will be on our minds as we march," said Sgt. John Tansey, 61, bandmaster of the NYPD Emerald Society's Pipes and Drums corps. "But it won't take away from the festivity, because they wouldn't want it to. The Irish actually celebrate death, and with these men, you're talking about heroes."

Tansey's corps lost a member of its color guard, Officer Stephen Driscoll, in the terrorist attacks.

The parade will step off at 11 a.m. tomorrow from 44th St. and Fifth Ave., head north to 86th St., then turn east to Third Ave. It is being held March 16 this year because the parade is never held on Sunday, organizers said.

Among the dignitaries who will be on hand: Irish President Mary McAleese, who laid a wreath at Ground Zero yesterday morning and will watch the parade from the viewing platform.

When Grand Marshal Edward Cardinal Egan reaches 86th St. about 12:30 p.m., he will be driven by golf cart back to the reviewing stand at 64th St. There, the cardinal will lead marchers and 2 million observers in a moment of silence as they look south toward lower Manhattan.

Would-Be Marcher's Gone

Patrick McEntee, 70, first marched in the parade in 1952. A bass drummer in the County Tyrone Pipe Band, he had planned to give up his place this year to a young drummer named Kevin Dowdell.

But Dowdell, an FDNY lieutenant who was with Rescue 4 in Queens, was one of 343 from the department killed in the Sept. 11 attacks. So McEntee will march with the band again.

"They're still looking for his [Dowdell's] body," McEntee said. "It's a very empty feeling. You get to know the fellows and their families very well. Losing Kevin was like losing a family member."

The somber mood may even mute a traditional source of the controversy