Daniel Castorina is a member of the 9/11 Memorial’s visitor services team. A Staten Island resident, Castorina was enamored with the Twin Towers growing up in New York City. He fondly recalled his parents bringing him to the observation deck on the South Tower as a birthday present in August 2001. They were his favorite buildings in the city.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Castorina was just starting his first week of middle school. He came home early that day and his mother explained what happened. “I could see the towers from my bedroom window,” he said, “I watched the smoke rising for hours.” Initially, Castorina was upset over the loss of the towers themselves, before realizing the gravity of the event overall.
Castorina’s father was chief of investigations for the FDNY when he responded on 9/11. He recalled not seeing his father until the next evening after the attacks. Over the years, Castorina asked his father about 9/11 and the recovery efforts that followed. “He told me a lot of stuff you didn’t really want to think about,” he said.
Castorina’s interest in 9/11 and its aftermath grew over time. He remembered skipping classes in high school to come down to ground zero to observe progress on the site, which he said he “always felt a connection to.” While in college, Castorina was browsing the 9/11 Memorial website looking for any updates on site construction progress, when he saw the job listing for visitor services hosts. He began working as a visitor services host in August 2011.
Interacting with different groups on private tours is one of Castorina’s favorite aspects of his job. He loves being able to talk about the site with a wide variety of smaller, intimate groups. He once gave a tour to the NATO Charity Bazaar and later received a personal letter from the head of the Marine Corps thanking him. He also gave a tour to a member of the New Zealand Parliament with whom he still keeps in touch. Several weeks ago he toured President Devis Eroglu of Northern Cyprus.
Castorina, a St. Francis College student, mentioned the difficulties of working with victims’ family members. “I remember my first day working here, I was helping a mother with her son’s name impression,” he said, “She was crying. I was crying. It gets very emotional.”
Castorina, who says a prayer every morning when opening the plaza, also finds himself moved by seeing “and her unborn child” next to the names of the 11 pregnant women who lost their lives on 9/11 and during the 1993 World Trade Center bombing on the memorial. “You do everything you can to protect your baby and just knowing that there’s nothing you can do anymore. I can’t even imagine,” he said.
For Castorina, his fast-paced, multi-faceted job has taught him to value and appreciate his own life. “I’ve become a much more patient person,” he said, “I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore because I know much worse could happen.”
By Emily Bonta, 9/11 Memorial Communications Intern