Ruth McCourt photographed with her daughter Juliana

Ron Clifford escaped World Trade Center, as sister and niece killed in plane


Ruth McCourt photographed with her daughter Juliana

He went to the wake in the shadow of the Verrazano Bridge in an old Italian neighborhood. It was very emotional, he remembers, huge bouquets of flowers from Paine Webber where Jennieann had worked, and friends, relatives, acquaintances all breaking down in tears.

After the memorials, Ron fell apart. Totally drained, he suffered from post-traumatic stress. Luckily, he knew to go to the right people and slowly his confidence has returned.

Still it was difficult. When showering he found himself continuously scraping his feet to the point where they almost bled. His therapist told him that he was reliving the scene from outside the World Trade Center where he walked on the ashes of the dead. Ron remembered a scene from Schindler’s List, the movie about the Jewish Holocaust, that was similar to what he experienced, and suddenly he understood.

He says he’s not angry at Osama bin Laden, and given his Christian forgiveness it is no surprise. He is sad, however, that people can be so misguided that they think they can come closer to God by killing other human beings.

Now his main priority is to make his business even more successful, and then to commit to the Juliana Fund, a non-profit organization he has started up to promote tolerance and understanding in children. He feels that that is what Ruth and Juliana would have wanted.

Then on a January weekend Ruth’s husband David called to say that they had found some of Ruth’s belongings and that he was going to collect them.  When he got there, the FBI handed David a sealed plastic bag containing Ruth’s Hermes handbag.

Overcome, David went back to his hotel room before he opened it. Inside, eerily, he found a World Trade Center ID card. Ruth had actually visited an estate planner and lawyer in the World Trade Center, one recommended by Ron the previous June, to discuss her and David’s affairs.

There was also a papal medal commemorating her wedding at the Vatican, damp and musty credit cards and a burnt and bent driver’s license.David gave the bag to Ron took it home and placed it on a countertop in his house. He felt that Ruth and Juliana’s spirit pervaded the room after he did so. In a strange way, he felt that they had come home to him.
This is an extract from my book "Fire in the Morning" about the events on that dreadful day and the Irish who were heroes, survivors and victims of 9/11

Read more: Bin Laden death brings justice to still grieving Irish families -- Closure for those who lost loved ones on 9/11


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