Widow of 9/11 Victim Emotionally Details His Final Voicemail, Still Seeking Identification 20 Years Later

by Jennifer Shea
Mike Segar-Pool/Getty Images

The widow of businessman Jim Cleere is still waiting for his remains to be identified and brought back to Iowa from New York City, where he died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Jean Cleere will never forget the events of that day, when Jim called her from his room in the New York Marriott, where he was staying on a business trip. In a calm, steady voice, he left two voicemails for his wife of 23 years, trying to reassure her that he was all right.

“I just want to let you know I’m OK if you hear anything on the news,” Jim said, according to KCCI.

Widow Recalls Last Phone Calls from Her Husband

By then, the first airplane had already crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Jim was staying at the north end of the Marriott. Guests at the south end had begun evacuating.

“I was able to talk to him,” Cleere said. “He calmed me down as he always did. We talked for a while after I got through crying. We talked for a while and he said, ‘I’m OK. I just need to find a way home.'”

Of course, Jim never did make it home. And in the years since, his widow has tried to cobble together bits of information about what happened to him in his final moments.

Eventually, Cleere found a Newsweek article that seemed to offer a hint. It mentioned a man that might have been Jim trying to flee the area around Ground Zero.

“The big man, injured leg, I thought that’s got to be Jim, and I thought that’s what prompted me to get ahold of this man Kevin Burns because he is in the article,” Cleere said.

Burns had reportedly tried to get a stretcher for Jim. Cleere wound up meeting him and discussing the events of that day.

“He said, ‘I crossed over the street and I was heading to see if I could find any of that and someone yelled the tower is coming down. Run for your life.’ And he said, ‘I took off running north,'” Cleere recalled.

Gradually, Cleere grew to accept that her husband was never coming home. But she still has his voicemails, as well as some songs that he recorded, and she says that now the sound of his voice is helping her to heal.

Quest to Identify Victims’ Remains Continues

Meanwhile, the effort to identify the remains of 9/11 victims continues, so there is still some hope that Cleere’s husband’s remains will yet be identified.

Earlier this week, the New York City Chief Medical Examiner announced that their office had identified the remains of two more victims. One of the victims was Dorothy Morgan, Newsweek reports. She worked in the north tower of the World Trade Center.

The other victim’s family has requested that his name not be publicly released.

“Twenty years ago, we made a promise to the families of World Trade Center victims to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to identify their loved ones, and with these two new identifications, we continue to fulfill that sacred obligation,” Chief Medical Examiner Barbara Sampson said in a statement.