Just before he escaped from the burning World Trade Center Towers on 9/11 Ron Clifford had helped a badly burnt woman who had walked towards him from the blazing explosions.
"She was walking like Frankenstein with her arms directly in front of her because her arms were so swollen. Her face was unrecognizable, her head was bare of any hair.
"I told her to sit down and I ran into the bathroom and looked around and found a plastic bag that I filled with water,” Clifford remembers.
It never occurred to him to just leave the woman. “That’s not my way, not the way of my religion,” the staunch Catholic remembers.
“I doused her with the bag of water, then I screamed repeatedly for help,” he recalls.
“I stood up, kept my eyes on her and shouted for EMS support.” Suddenly the woman spoke. “Jesus, Sacred Heart of Mary, help me,” she said. He knelt down next to her, knowing now she was a Catholic, and they said a Hail Mary and then the Lord’s Prayer. The woman later died.
Clifford, a Cork native was thinking of that woman and his sister and his niece who also perished on 9/11 when the news about Bin Laden’s death became public on Sunday night.
He himself had barely escaped the 9/11 attacks that horrific morning when he was passing through the revolving doors that connected the Marriott Hotel and the World Trade Centre lobby when a massive explosion rocked the building.
Unknown to him his sister Ruth and four-year-old niece were aboard the United Flight 175. It was hijacked in Boston and flown into the south tower.
It all came flooding back to Clifford, while watching the news at 10.45pm on Sunday night when he heard the sensational news of Osama’s death.
Ron said of the celebrations on TV at Ground Zero, “We, the families and friends of 9/11 victims mourn at these venues, so it is great to see the joy in these people celebrating, it is a huge victory of epic proportions.”
He has been answering calls since 3am on Monday, but says he is glad to do so, “I feel good, it’s like the Nuremberg trials when Hitler died, we needed this ….”
Ron admits he is an optimist and that it “is incredible what the US forces did, it was a long time coming and it brings some relief, but they need to follow through, they have bad people and it will hurt Al Qaeda. It is a dagger in the heart of Al Qaeda.”
Osama bin Laden was buried within 24 hours of death as is the Islamist tradition,which Clifford approves of “I commend US forces being aware of the tradition, unlike Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who beheaded his enemy, we did not stoop to that level. The administration should be proud, Osama killed more Arabs and Muslims then Westerners so they should not pay homage.”
Ron Clifford has remained active by staying close to Washington keeping the pressure on for US trials where the people who masterminded and took part in these attacks, and murders can be brought to justice rather than languish in Guantanamo. “The pressure is on. The Irish papers have been calling me and it’s great that this will set things off in Ireland too.”
“It is a huge milestone in history and I am convinced they (Al Qaeda) will be pushed to extinction,” Ron replies. “Obama can prove to the families that his heart is in the right place by following through with the Guantanamo trials.”
Ron Clifford’s brother Mark, his daughter, and his sister Ruth’s husband David as well as family friend Alan, who’s wife, Paige Hackel, was also killed on that gruesome morning aboard the hijacked planes, are all doing as well as can be expected. They are pretty happy about the recent developments even though they carry their loss with them every day.
“It’s part of history, we are close and will be ok, it was because of my daughter who was 11 years old on 9/11 that I scurried home that day.” His daughter is now in college in Vermont, time has moved on but the death of Bin Laden has provided some closure for an Irishman who suffered more than most that awful day.