Remembering Donald DiFranco, Broadcast Engineer

Donald DiFranco poses for a photo near the Channel 7 satellites on top of the North Tower.
Don at the top of the North Tower, near the Channel 7 satellites where he’d perform checks. Collection 9/11 Memorial Museum, Gift of the DiFranco and Pipitone families in memory of Donald DiFranco.

Lifelong Brooklynite Donald DiFranco was a tech-savvy handyman who helped his family with tasks ranging from home renovations to tax returns. A broadcast engineer at WABC-TV for 13 years, he was responsible for the station’s transmitter on the 110th floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower.

On Sept. 11, 2001, DiFranco, 43, was working in the WABC-TV transmitter room on the overnight shift. He had been there since about midnight. Six broadcast engineers affiliated with five television stations were also working from offices on floors 104 and 110 in the North Tower that day.

After the tower was pierced by American Airlines Flight 11, DiFranco called the WABC-TV control room to say service might be disrupted. But all transmissions ceased by 10:28 a.m. when the tower collapsed. None of the broadcast engineers survived.

“In addition to being a talented engineer, Don was just a tremendous person,” recalled his friend, James Joyce, in an oral history collected by the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

Though DiFranco was by his family’s estimation a quiet and private man who would not have liked all the attention his death received, a memorial plaque was unveiled in his honor at ABC Channel 7 studios. His sister, Lisa Pipitone, mentioned that the office “moved Oprah” to give DiFranco’s plaque the space between the two elevators. A memorial street sign in his name was also erected on Staten Island.

Scholarship funds have been created in DiFranco’s memory at the College of Staten Island, of which he was an alumnus.

The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET), which counted DiFranco as a member, also set up a scholarship fund in DiFranco’s memory.

By Anne Dellinger, Digital Communications Manager, 9/11 Memorial

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