Bridge named for 9/11 victim Tiesi|
Friday, July 20, 2012
By Terry Whetstone Staff Writer
IRVONA - Mary Ellen Tiesi was a native of Irvona who graduated from Glendale High School. She then went on to bigger and better things in New York City, where she worked in the South Tower of the World Trade Center as senior vice president and account executive for AON Risk Management. Tiesi died in that tower during the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
She gave her own life to save a colleague's.
Yesterday, the newly-built bridge spanning state Route 53 across Clearfield Creek in Irvona was officially named the "Mary Ellen Tiesi Memorial 9-11 Bridge."
Joe Tiesi, Mary Ellen's brother, wrote Irvona Borough Council in a 2011 e-mail, "Mary Ellen was exiting the stairs with her friend Pam after the attacks and at some point around the 80th floor; she stopped to wait for their boss, Bob, who had a heart condition."
Joe Tiesi continued, "Pam cautioned her not to wait too long because the situation was dangerous. Mary Ellen agreed to wait only two minutes. Pam left her as Mary Ellen was looking at her watch, counting the two minutes."
She met her boss who said he had had enough of the stairs and was going to take the elevator. He asked Mary Ellen to join him. She declined, noting they had been told in safety drills not to use the elevators in an emergency. When he left her, she was continuing down the stairs.
While Pam and her boss both made it safely to the ground, Mary Ellen did not.
She is the only Clearfield County native to perish that day in the attacks.
Yesterday, local and state dignitaries, as well as Tiesi's family, came together to dedicate the bridge.
"Welcome to this historical event here in our town of Irvona, Pennsylvania," said Mayor John "PJ" Patterson. "Looking around at everyone here and the pride of this town, I could only wish that my mother, Lois, was here to see this today. She would be proud to see the town that she loved so much come together to honor one of our own."
He noted how the bridge is more than just a bunch of stone and concrete, but that it was built with pride.
"As we think back to the tragic day of Sept. 11, 2001, we can all remember where we were when we heard what was going on, and the sense of panic that we felt hundreds of miles away," Patterson said. "At that same time one of our own was inside demonstrating the characteristics of a hero. Mary Ellen Tiesi made the ultimate sacrifice, choosing to help those in need and save a life. It is with great pride for the entire community to have this bridge named after her. I can only hope that she is standing with her father, Jim, and the entire Tiesi and Cusack family, looking down on us today with a smile. (It's) a very proud day for Irvona."
The Richard L. Beers Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7043 Honor Guard presented the colors and more than 300 people in attendance recited the pledge of allegiance.
Karen Michael, assistant district executive of PennDOT District 2, was emcee for the event.
Fr. Justin Pino gave the invocation. He was followed by Barry J. Schoch, secretary of the state Department of Transportation.
"The tales of heroism from the tragic events that unfolded on that horrific day in 2001 have left their mark on all of us," Schoch said. "Ms. Tiesi is not just a Pennsylvania hero, but also a national hero, and by dedicating this bridge in her honor and memory, her name will forever stand as a testament to courage and bravery."
He pointed out that her uncle had worked on the construction of the previous bridge in Irvona, the one the new bridge replaced.
State Rep. Camille "Bud" George, D-74 of Houtzdale sponsored the legislation to rename the bridge and Gov. Tom Corbett signed it earlier this year.
"It is with great pride for me to recognize one of our own," Schoch said. "It's a tremendous honor to name this the Mary Ellen Tiesi Memorial 9/11 Bridge."
Schoch said the dedication would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of George.
"I'm deeply moved at the size of this crowd," George said.
He thanked the governor for signing the legislation and noted that all of the legislators voted in favor of changing the name of the bridge.
He thanked Patterson and the entire Irvona Borough Council for helping make the project happen.
George took a moment during his speech to present a citation to Mary Ellen's mother, Ellen "Mick" Tiesi. He said he has other citations coming for the mayor, the borough and other significant people who helped make the day possible.
"Thank you," he said, "from the bottom of my heart."
Sen. John Wozniak, D-35 of Johnstown, was also on hand and noted that he thinks Mary Ellen Tiesi was on hand during the ceremony, noting one of the portraits of Mary Ellen Tiesi photo had fallen to the ground earlier. He thinks that was her way of saying she was there.
"I've been to a lot of bridge dedications over the years," Wozniak said. "This is by far one of the largest crowds I've ever seen."
The crowd of more than 300 consisted of visitors from all around the Glendale Valley, from Fallentimber, Coalport, LaJose and Irvona.
"Mary Ellen was one of the first victims of this war," Wozniak said. "We are in rural Pennsylvania today, probably one of the most patriotic places I know of, to honor her."
Joe Tiesi said he was shocked and blessed to hear what Irvona wanted to do for his sister. He noted that she was shy and probably would not like the attention she was getting.
"She had a loving spirit and was constantly helping those around her," Tiesi said. "She stopped that day to make sure her boss was OK. She stopped for maybe two or three minutes and it cost her her life."
He said he is so humbled by the action taken by the Borough of Irvona.
"It's just so nice the town did this," he said. "We knew after the fact what they were doing. We didn't ask or push for this. They (the borough and mayor) did this on their own. We really appreciate that."
Margaret "Peg" McCoy, council president, said it was a wonderful ceremony and a very good turnout.
"Everyone enjoyed themselves and there was a nice luncheon afterwards" she said. "I think everything went great."
Irvona resident Clifford Henry said it was a very nice ceremony.
Joe Nevling, Coalport Borough Council president and acting mayor, said, "I pray today's dedication to the memory of Mary Ellen Tiesi doesn't fade into the fog of yesterday and become forgotten. It was a very nice ceremony."
Irvona resident Bill Peterson said there was a very good turnout and everyone appreciated it. "It's something that needed to be done to recognize her for what she did," he said. "And I think her family appreciated it."
Irvona Tax Collector Nila Henry said, "It was a very beautiful but emotional ceremony."
Following the ceremony, SR 53 was closed while the signs were installed and photos were taken. Prior to that, traffic had been restricted to one lane.
A small luncheon was held at Elderberry Park afterward.
Mary Ellen Tiesi was born January 1, 1963, the daughter of James Tiesi and Ellen (Cusick) Tiesi. She has a brother, Joseph Tiesi, and sister, Theresa Vesnesky.
She was a 1980 graduate of Glendale High School and a 1984 graduate of St. Francis College. She was a senior vice president and account executive for AON Risk Management at the World Trade Center, South Tower Floor 105.
She was not married and had no children.