A bizarre and tragic twist of fate

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The Independent US

A survivor managed to flee the World Trade Centre seconds before his building was struck by a Boeing 767, only to be informed that his sister and niece had perished on board the aircraft.

In one of the most extraordinary and tragic twists of the day, Ronnie Clifford had come "within an inch" of his life before making his way to safety.

His brother John, from Cork, who spoke to Ronnie after his escape, said: "He went through the front door on the ground floor and a lady was about three seconds in front of him. She was hit by a terrific fireball. She subsequently died.

"He phoned to say he made it, he was OK, traumatised, that he was within an inch of his life. He said that unfortunately, while he was OK, he had a feeling that his sister [Ruth Clifford McCourt] – my sister – had left Logan Airport to go to Los Angeles with her daughter [Juliana] at around 7.30 in the morning. So we were then concerned that she may have been on either of the two flights that crashed into the towers, and then that was confirmed."

A friend of Mrs Clifford McCourt, who lived in Connecticut and travelled to Boston to fly to Los Angeles for a few days' holiday, was also killed.

Mr Clifford said his sister's husband was absolutely devastated by the loss of his wife and daughter. Juliana was their only child. She was a "beautiful" girl, he said.

Mr Clifford had run for his life after the adjacent North Tower was struck by the first aircraft. Seconds after his escape, the South Tower was struck by the Boeing 767 carrying Mrs Clifford McCourt and her daughter. All 56 passengers on the plane died.

"Ronnie said he saw sights he would never see again. Very sad. Very evil, but he's safe," John Clifford said.