Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ruth Magdaline (Clifford) McCourt A tribute in the 2,996 Project

September 11, 2006 Link

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, Ruth McCourt, her four year old daughter Juliana and her best friend Paige Farley-Hackel drove to Boston's Logan International Airport. They were on their way to Southern California. They were going to see friends, they were going to spend a few days at Deepak Chopra's Center for Well-Being where Paige would receive certification in the Debbie Ford Shadow Process and they were going to take "Miss J" to Disneyland. Because they wanted to use frequent flier miles, they wound up on different airlines. Paige was on American Airlines flight 11, Ruth and Juliana were on United flight 175. They would meet up at the airport in Los Angeles, California, and begin their mini-vacation.

That same morning Ruth's brother Ron Clifford, who lives in New Jersey, had a meeting scheduled at the Marriott Marquis in Midtown, but it was moved to the Marriott World Trade Center at the last moment. He and Ruth were especially close, she'd even instructed him on which tie to wear for the meeting. It was a beautiful day, his daughter Monica's 11th birthday, and this meeting was extremely important to his career future.

He arrived about 15 minutes early, and was standing in the lobby of the WTC when the first plane, American 11, hit the north tower. He wasn't sure what had happened, but a terribly burned woman appeared in front of him and he wound up helping her. He was praying with her and trying to keep her talking (and conscious) when the second plane hit the south tower and he knew he had to get her out of there quickly. (The woman was 40-year old Jennieann Maffeo, who had been standing at a bus stop outside the twin towers. She had been doused with burning jet fuel when the first plane crashed, and had suffered third degree burns over more than 90% of her body. Forty two days after Ron Clifford led her from the WTC she died of kidney failure.) It wasn't until after he'd gotten the lady to an ambulance and boarded the ferry to New Jersey that he learned the cause of the fires. He was glad his sister and niece had left for California the day before and hoped that they weren't watching CNN. He didn't want them seeing this and worrying about his safety. As he watched the first tower collapse from the ferry, he realized that by giving him something to focus on, the lady he'd helped had probably saved his life.

Ron made it home, stunned, shaken and devastated by all that he had witnessed. Later that evening he learned that Ruth and Juliana had not left the day before, and had, in fact, been on that second plane which crashed into the south tower at 9:02:54 a.m., and that Paige Farley-Hackel, a friend of the entire family, had been on the first, which crashed into the north tower at 8:46:26 a.m.

Days later, as she prepared for the funerals, Paula Scott, Ruth's mom, kept replaying the World Trade Center crashes in her mind. She says she somehow knew at the moment she saw the second plane crash on TV that she had lost her granddaughter, her daughter and her daughter's best friend. "I know it wasn't physically possible, but I had a vision of all of them holding onto each other."

Ron asked a friend of his, a NY policeman, to retrieve some ashes for Ron to send back to a brother in Ireland. When Tommy the cop gave Ron the ashes, he also gave him a piece of glass, tinted black, irregularly shaped, but smooth on the edges. It's a piece of the World Trade Center, and now Ron carries it all the time. ''It gives me some solace to have something. Some remembrance. It's tempered glass. You can hold it as tight as you can and it's not going to cut you.'' Ron had his piece of glass engraved. On one side it reads, ''What a sister.'' On the other, ''In the life.''


"In the life," was Ruth's saying. In addition to her tall, elegant beauty, the redhead was blessed with a sharp, quick mind and stood firm in her convictions. She often began her proclamations with the phrase, which is an old Irish expression meaning something akin to "in this lifetime."

Born on June 4, 1956, Ruth was the third of six children and the only daughter born to her parents in Ballintemple, County Cork, Ireland. She immigrated with her family to the United States in 1973 at the age of 17. She first lived in Pacific Palisades with her family, her step-father was a professor at UCLA.

After doing some modeling of her own, Ruth moved to Rochester, NY, where she worked for a modeling school: she was tasked with opening new branches of the school around the country. In 1982, she settled just outside of Boston in Newton, Massachusetts, and in 1985, she opened a day spa there, "Clifford Classiques" which eventually grew into full service spas and salons with its own line of products.

Paige and Ruth had met in 1989, when Paige came to Ruth's Newton spa. The two women began chatting about this and that, and, as they realized how much they had in common, something sparked between them. It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship, the women considered themselves soul-sisters. Paige became a part of Ruth's extended family, who liked to joke that if you separated the two of them the universe might be thrown dangerously out of balance.

In September 1994, Ruth married David McCourt, owner of Abco Wire and Metal Products, in a ceremony at the Vatican. She sold her business and the happy couple moved to New London, Connecticut, which was David's hometown. Paige still lived in Newton, but the women were as close as ever and frequently traveled together or spent time at one another's homes. When Juliana was born on May 4, 1997, Paige was named her Godmother.

In 2001, Ruth and Paige had been busy. In January, along with Paige's mom Marjorie, they visited South Africa and Zimbabwe. In March, Paige had gone to Ruth's St. Patrick's Day party in Connecticut, and later that month they'd gone on a skiing trip. In August, they'd organized a birthday party for Paige's mom in Boston. Their September trip would include several days with friends and a surprise visit to Disneyland for Juliana.

Ruth loved gardening, reading and cooking. She and Paige were meditation partners, while she and her mother were active members of the New London Gardening Club. She lived in an elegant home built on the foundation of an old casino. The property had three beaches, and she had created a meditation garden. Ruth spent quite a bit of time getting her garden just right. Her garden featured flowing water, a small bridge, sculpture and benches.

Ruth and her mom had also recreated Mr. McGregor's Garden, a children’s vegetable and flower garden complete with a potter's shed for Juliana. Ruth's gardens served as the inspiration for the McCourt Memorial Garden, which was dedicated four years after her death.

Ruth was extremely close to her family (including those still in Ireland) and doted on her husband and daughter. Juliana was their only child.

Family and friends describe her as very spiritual. She and Ron had discussed dying in the past, and Ruth had mentioned how she felt that excessive grieving by those left behind might hamper the departed moving on to the next realm of their journey. Above all else, Ruth believed firmly in God and an afterlife in Heaven.

ruth%20and%20juliana.jpg About a week before the tragedy, Ruth had called her brother Ron to relate an amusing anecdote about Juliana. She told how she'd instructed Juliana to eat her Cheerios, and the little girl had replied "yes, your highness." Through her laughter Ruth asked Ron "where is she getting this stuff?" Like her mom, Juliana was very feminine and very concerned about others, a little girl who would question strangers who seemed sad about what was bothering them.

Ruth's family comforts themselves with their belief that when the hijacking happened, Ruth was probably able to stay calm for her daughter's sake and when they crashed she was no doubt holding her daughter tightly, softly singing in her ear.


memorygarden.jpg In New London, four years after the attack, the governor officially opened the McCourt Memorial Garden, a six-acre garden inspired by the memory of Ruth and Juliana.

Ruth's mom describes it as a contemplative and beautiful spot that she hopes will inspire thoughts of peace and love. “The first time I walked through the area I felt a profound peace come over me. Amid all the turmoil, it is such a joy to be able to connect with nature. Every time I am at the Garden I am reminded of the words ‘one is nearer to heaven in the garden than anywhere else on earth.’ This is my peaceful place and our family is so grateful to all those who have made this Garden possible. I hope that everyone who visits this Garden will share in the joy that it has brought to so many.”

The garden features several inviting areas including a Children’s Secret Garden, where visitors will find a replica of Juliana's beloved potting shed, whimsical mushroom-shaped tables and stools and a “Fairy Circle” perfect for storytelling, birthday parties or picnic lunches for the many school children who visit the Museum. A brick “tea terrace” on the side of the historic Deshon-Allyn House has been named after Ruth McCourt in celebration of her Irish heritage.


I used more links -- and even a couple of print magazines I'd bought back in 2001 -- than you'd imagine. As usual, Google was invaluable.

Rather than list all of the links, here are a few that you might find interesting.

About The 2996 Project (mirror site)

List of participating blogs in The 2996 Project (mirror site)

Juliana will be honored by Jamie Dawn at Jamie Dawn's Mindless Blather.

Paige Farley-Hackel will be remembered by Derek of Gwinn & Bear It.

Jennieann Maffeo, the lady Ron Clifford tried to save, will be honored by Christopher Blosser of Against The Grain.

McCourt Memorial Garden

Juliana McCourt Children's Education Fund - New London Police Union

Juliana Valentine McCourt Children's Education Fund Home

Ron Clifford, Ruth's brother, has of course given many interviews since 9/11. He also testified at the Zacharias Moussaoui trial. These are links to the two interviews I found most helpful:

One of Ron Clifford's Accounts of 9/11

Another of Ron Clifford's Accounts

The quilt blocks at left are from the United in Memory site, where each of the victims from 9/11 are honored:

United In Memory

United in Memory Quilt Gallery

And please take a look at my 11-year old daughter's tribute: Missy's Tribute to David W. Nelson

The niece of my friend Janie, Lisa Aris Frost is honored by blogger Sean Gavin at The Holding Pattern.

Finally, here's my original post about the 2996 project, together with my thoughts about the victim I am honored to pay tribute to, Ruth Magdaline Clifford McCourt: 2996 post

Posted by Kate at September 11, 2006 9:02 AM


Oh, this one really got to me. I have been working at holding it all together as I go from site to site reading. Just to much pain and sadness in this. How can any family ever survive such a multiple terrible lose?

This was an incredibly wonderful tribute. Mixed in with all this pain, is the story of a wonderful brother who was able to survive, by his kindness to someone else.

Thank you so much for writing this. I'm very proud to join you in this tribute.

My tribute to "Adam K.Ruhalter" is up if you would like to read it.

Posted by: Cathy at September 10, 2006 5:51 AM

I have read over 100 tributes so far and they all are beautiful and moving, but this one is by far the most gripping and sad. You have done an incredible tribute to a three women joined forever beyond this earth. Thank you.

Pleaase stop by to my tribute for Gilbert and leave a comment and link so that others can come here and read.

Posted by: Brian at September 10, 2006 9:33 AM

I have read over 100 tributes so far and they all are beautiful and moving, but this one is by far the most gripping and sad. You have done an incredible tribute to a three women joined forever beyond this earth. Thank you.

Pleaase stop by to my tribute for Gilbert and leave a comment and link so that others can come here and read.

Posted by: Brian at September 10, 2006 9:34 AM

beautiful, Kate.

Posted by: girl at September 10, 2006 9:52 AM

I'm lost for words...this is without a doubt the most moving tribute i've read so far. You've done an amazing job in retelling this tragic story.....

Posted by: debambam at September 10, 2006 9:55 AM

I must have read over 3 dozen of these memorials so far, and this one is the first that I have wept at reading. You have done an amazing job, and it makes me proud to be a participant. This is a really moving slideshow made by some students in PA: I think it is something everybody should watch if they can, so I’m asking all the participants in 2996, if they want to, to post the link on their blogs.

Posted by: Sarah at September 10, 2006 9:55 AM

Oh. Lord, this is so wrenching, im crying.
you did a beautiful tribute to a whole family of lovely people ripped from us before their time. How do we recover? How do we go forward?

i posted mine, but i would rather keep reading yours
- i will link to you

Posted by: david at September 10, 2006 10:11 AM

Kate, thank you for sharing this moving story of these three beautiful souls. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of all of them as we near this 5th sadiversary of 9/11. God bless each and every one of them.
Auntie Lyn

Posted by: Auntie Lyn at September 10, 2006 10:12 AM

What a beautiful tribute. It still all hits so close to home.

Mine is up, too.

Posted by: carmen at September 10, 2006 10:51 AM

What an outstanding tribute.

It occured to me this morning, that though these many lives were taken from us, the spiript that their lives represented still lives, and seems to be getting stronger with every tribute.

Well done indeed.

Posted by: Gawfer at September 10, 2006 12:08 PM

Since finishing my tribute yesterday I'm spent my time reading other blogs. This is, by far, the most moving one. You did a spectacular job of sharing Ruth and her life. Thank you so much for taking the time and effort.

Posted by: Cathy at September 10, 2006 12:50 PM

This is by far one of the most outstaning tributes I have read to date. As I have traveled from blog to blog reading these tributes I have been moved by the passion for life and the desire to keep this feeling that has taken root inside of me.

I am glad my path crossed your path during this tribute.

Posted by: Vickie at September 10, 2006 2:06 PM

Thankyou for your comment to my tribute. I stopped by to read yours and it brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. Five years on and I'm still in shock over this.

Your tribute is absolutely wonderful.

Posted by: Dawn at September 10, 2006 3:48 PM

A very beautiful and touching tribute. Thank you.

I was struck by Ruth's mom's words:

"I know it wasn't physically possible, but I had a vision of all of them holding onto each other."

I don't doubt for a second that they were when they reached Heaven.

Posted by: Jason at September 10, 2006 3:48 PM

That was a really beautiful tribute! What a tragic, tragic story. I choose to believe there are no coincidences, and there is a reason all 3 died and her brother did not. Thanks for stopping by my tribute to Marjorie C. Salamone.

Posted by: Katherine at September 10, 2006 4:46 PM

I'm getting ready to post my triubute to Juliana McCourt.
I came by here via Brian's blog.
Your trubute is wonderful.
What a tragic, terrible loss that day! I am glad we are vowing to never forget these beautiful people who were taken from us.

Posted by: Jamie Dawn at September 10, 2006 5:13 PM

Incredibly moving. So very very sad. Thank you for that excellent tribute.

Posted by: Kathleen at September 10, 2006 7:11 PM

What an incredible tribute! Thank you for sharing such a wonderful review of this woman's story.

Never forget.

Posted by: Connie at September 10, 2006 7:37 PM

Truly heart-wrenching - thank you for this wonderful tribute

I linked to your tribute from 2996 tribute to victims of 9/11 - Terrence E Adderley

Posted by: bernie at September 10, 2006 7:38 PM

Absoultely beautiful. Thank you for sharing this wonderful tribute. I'm honoring John A Hofer's memory. I hope you'll stop by for a visit too!

Posted by: Tammy at September 10, 2006 7:43 PM

Beautiful tribute. A little girl my own daughters age. I just can't imagine. You did a wonderful job.

If you have the chance, come see mine. Thanks.

Posted by: Melissa at September 10, 2006 8:04 PM

This tribute has moved me to tears. The photos and the quotes, I feel like you have captured their spirits in this beautiful memorium.

Posted by: Chris at September 10, 2006 9:46 PM

I remember reading about her in the paper and she stood out to me at the time because I wondered how would I comfort my children if I knew we were going to die? How would I make their last moments on Earth feel safe and full of love... it broke my heart thinking of Ruth and her daughter, Julianna...

Thank you for such a wonderful and touching tribute.

I invite you to visit my site and read mine to Clarin Shellie Schwartz.

Posted by: Kristin at September 10, 2006 10:49 PM

I remember hearing about Ruth and Juliana shortly after the attacks, and their story has always stuck with me. To imagine a four year old child dying that was horrible.

Thank you so much for doing such a lovely job for them both.

I have a tribute for Anthony Perez up on my blog.

Posted by: adena at September 11, 2006 12:25 AM

I remember hearing about Ruth and Juliana shortly after the attacks, and their story has always stuck with me. To imagine a four year old child dying that was horrible.

Thank you so much for doing such a lovely job for them both.

I have a tribute for Anthony Perez up on my blog.

Posted by: adena at September 11, 2006 12:25 AM

tears are streaming down my face...thank you for this incredible tribute. It's too much to comprehend...three beautiful lives taken from one family.

My tribute to Dominick Berardi is at

Posted by: michelle at September 11, 2006 1:33 AM

A fine tribute, to three victims. In life they had so much success. The more of these tributes I read, the more I come to appreciate all these victims as the type of people I associate with.

The killers represent hate and hell on earth.

Posted by: TomR at September 11, 2006 1:46 AM

A fine tribute, to three victims. In life they had so much success. The more of these tributes I read, the more I come to appreciate all these victims as the type of people I associate with.

The killers represent hate and hell on earth.

Posted by: TomR at September 11, 2006 1:47 AM

Your tribute is breathtaking, heartwrenching, and touches that nerve in all of us that is still so raw.

A classmate of mine perished on that day. I can only imagine what her family is going through today, as are the thousands of other families.

Thanks to tributes like yours and hundreds others, the innocent will live on.

God Bless America.

Posted by: mwdancemom (Colleen) at September 11, 2006 2:37 AM

What else can be said? Very nice.

Posted by: Linda D. at September 11, 2006 4:45 AM

What a beautiful and amazing tribute. I posted one to Harry Ramos who died in Tower 1 while helping a stranger.

Heros all.

Posted by: Jay T. at September 11, 2006 9:55 AM

what a truly wonderful tribute. i am amazed at how much information you have for her and saddened that i don't have much info on my tribute. thank you for introducing her to us and helping us to remember the innocent who never knew what happened. god bless us all.

Posted by: killired at September 11, 2006 10:15 AM

Your tribute is beautiful and moving. Very nice job. I have a tribute to Touri Bolourchi on my blog as well.

Posted by: Carl at September 11, 2006 11:42 AM

This was one of those "Oh.. NO! Don't Tell Me!" posts. I found myself tearing up quite often at the thought of what transpired on 9/11/01 for this family. I find myself wondering how Ruth's husband is doing after the loss of his wife and daughter- and his wife's best friend. Of all the posts I've read through the 2,996 Project, a handful stand out. Yours stands out.

Posted by: AFSister at September 11, 2006 2:43 PM

Ruth sounds like an amazing woman. What a beautiful tribute. I have one up for Scott Davidson.

Posted by: Becky at September 11, 2006 4:16 PM

Of all the tributes I've read (and I've read a lot) this one was by far the saddest and most moving. I can't believe that this happened but to lose those two women and that beautiful little girl...of course it makes me think of my own daughter. Even though I'm crying, thanks for writing this. Please read my tribute to Rosemarie Carlson if you have a chance.

Posted by: Stefanie at September 11, 2006 5:17 PM

Beautiful and incredibly moving tribute. My tribute to Cindy Guan is up in my blog (accessable by clicking on my name).

Posted by: Jeanette at September 11, 2006 5:50 PM

This was one of the most beautiful and informative posts I've read today. So sad. I, too, posted for the 2996, you can view my tribute to Kevin Dennis. I could not find much for information, but again, thank you. So sad, and yet such a wonderful way to pay honor to these wonderful people.

Posted by: Mieke at September 11, 2006 6:15 PM

Its September 11th 2006. This broke my heart when I originally heard the news. But only 3 days ago, never having put names together, we discovered that Ruth was the daughter of my Mums friend whom she knew in Colorado. Fresh tears again. God Speed.

Posted by: Tara Reynor at September 11, 2006 6:58 PM done good, hon. They won't be forgotten, not by us, nor by the Almighty Creator.


Posted by: Denita TwoDragons at September 11, 2006 7:01 PM

Thank you for such a beautiful tribute...such a loss of some sweet people. May God hold them in the palm of His hand.

Posted by: Mrs_Who at September 11, 2006 10:01 PM

A very moving tribute. Wonderfully written.

My tribute to Gricelda James is up at my blog, clicking on my name takes you there.

You put alot of effort into this, and it is not unappreciated; to see more about these people, to get a glimpse into their lives, is very heartfelt to me.

Posted by: sarebear at September 12, 2006 12:24 AM

That was a lovely tribute. My heart breaks for their families. I'm so glad that at the last, Ruth was there to put her arms around her sweet little daughter, and that her brother was able to have that touchstone for comfort.

Posted by: Scone at September 12, 2006 1:02 AM

As I read through these, I'm amazed at the very "small world" feel some of these stories have. This is not to make light of anything here. It's just that some of the stories show just how small a world we really live in. Amazing how Ruth's brother ended up at the WTC during the attacks, and how they were all involved in it. Similar stories have cropped up throughout my reading in these past few days.

It's hard for me to put my thoughts in words, because sometimes it's so easy to state the obvious. So I won't try to state what so many people have already done in a much more eloquent way. But I will say this is a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Posted by: Schadeboy at September 12, 2006 2:00 AM

Thank you for an amazing tribute. I'll never forget this story and how the lives of those you talked about were so intertwined in this tragedy.
Incredible. Thank you.

Posted by: Babaloo at September 12, 2006 10:00 AM

A BEAUTIFUL Tribute to a very beautiful soul...
The sadness of all this loss is just heartbreaking....and for those left behind---a pain that will be with them through eternity.

Posted by: OldOldLady Of The Hi at September 12, 2006 1:35 PM

I am sorry, I thought I had commented here yesterday. I know that I read and then went to your daughter's beautfiul post.

This was such a beautiful and touching memorial. Today I am back in my office and my eyes are welling up as I read it. This of all the memorials that I have read just hit me as it is so close to home, as I am sure it was for you - a mother and her daughter. You've done a beautiful mother and daughter's memory so proud on this date. They will not be forgotten.

Posted by: G at September 12, 2006 2:51 PM

Wonderful tribute. God bless Ruth and Paige and their families. It's wonderful to read all these tributes of fallen Americans. Well done!
Have a great day!

Posted by: Melissa at September 13, 2006 6:02 PM

I am giving a speech in my public speaking class next week. It is entitled, In Honor of Juliana. I am spreading the story of the loss of Juliana and her dear mother and godmother. I came by here to gather more info about them. I honored Juliana at my blog on Sept 11th, and her story touched my life dramatically.
Thanks for doing this post to honor the memory of Ruth.
May we never forget that those who were killed that day were people just like us.

Posted by: Jamie Dawn at October 5, 2006 12:25 PM

I remember Ruth in school at Ursuline Convent in Blackrock, Cork. At that time {age 5-11} we were 'best friends'. She would come to my house and me to hers. We also had such fun at her birhtday parties in North she was an only daughter, her parties were extra special...I only realised that in later years. I remember her beautiful titan hair and her wonderful smile....I wish her peace with her precious daughter.

Posted by: Ann Parfrey at January 28, 2007 3:18 PM

What a tragedy and what scum who would do that to people.

Posted by: Liberty at February 17, 2007 3:44 PM

1 comment:

The Gonzo Mama said...

Your tribute to Ruth is amazing. Paige Farley-Hackel's name was listed on the Project 2,996 page as not having an active online tribute, so I wrote one, here:

I tried the link you posted to a past tribute for Paige, but it seems to be inactive at this time.

Be blessed!