Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Man with the Bright Yellow Tie

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, Ron Clifford had a breakfast meeting at the Marriott Hotel located at the World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan.  Mr. Clifford, an architect living in New Jersey, was coming into the city for a job interview.  Knowing that he had an important task at hand that morning, Mr. Clifford's sister, Ruth Clifford McCourt, provided her brother with some important advice:  Wear a bright-colored tie.  Her rationale was that - at the very least - his tie would make an impression upon the interviewer.

Mr. Clifford took his sister's advice to heart and after thanking her for it, told her that he would call her later that day to tell her how his interview went.  She was spending that day, herself, traveling. Ms. McCourt, forty-five, her four-year-old daughter Juliana, and Ms. McCourt's best friend, Paige Farley Hackel, forty-six, were on their way to Disneyland.  Their only regret was that they could not get seats on the same flight out of Boston.  Ms. Farley Hackel ended up on American Airlines Flight 11.  Ms. McCourt and Juliana were aboard United Airlines Flight 175. 

Ron Clifford crossed the river from the Jersey side that morning and arrived at the World Trade Center complex well in advance of his 9:00 am meeting. At 8:46 that morning, he was in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel when American Airlines Flight 11 was flown into the North Tower by the murderous cowards who had hijacked it, killing all aboard, including Ms. Farley Hackel.  The jet fuel from the obliterated jet cascaded onto people in the street below, including forty-year-old Jennieann Maffeo of Brooklyn, who suffered grievous burns.   Ron Clifford saw what happened to Ms. Maffeo and although the two did not know each other and although doing so endangered his own life, he immediately came to her assistance.  

As Mr. Clifford was shepherding Ms. Maffeo to medical help and to safety, above his head United Airlines Flight 175, carrying his sister and his niece among its passengers, was being flown on a suicide mission into the South Tower.  Sadly, Mr. Clifford did not learn until much later that day, after he himself safely made it home to New Jersey that his sister and his niece had been aboard the jet that he witnessed get flown into the South Tower. 

Jennieann Maffeo battled hard against the almost incomprehensible burns and related injuries she sustained.  Thanks to Ron Clifford, she was taken from the World Trade Center to, ultimately, the burn unit at Weill Cornell Medical Center.  It was there - on October 22, 2001 - where she died

September 11, 2001 is the single-most terrible day to which I have borne witness in close to fifty years toiling on this big blue marble. Among the iconic images of that terrible day is that of Ron Clifford helping Jenniann Maffeo towards the medical attention she desperately needed... 


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