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Meet a 9/11 Memorial Host, Who Sees Every Day as New Experience

Marina Isaac directing visitors outside the Memorial. (Photo by Emily Bonta) Marina Isaac directing visitors outside the Memorial. (Photo by Emily Bonta)

Manhattan native, Marina Isaac, is part of the 9/11 Memorial’s visitor services team. Isaac was just starting her second day of sophomore year of high school on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. She remembers one of her teachers coming into a classroom distraught, but she still was not sure what was going on. She noticed her best friend started crying because her sister worked in 7 World Trade Center. “It was then that I realized the gravity of the situation,” Isaac said.

Isaac left school early that day after getting a ride home from a teacher. “I remember realizing how serious it was again when I got home, uptown in the upper 80s,” she said, “All stores, restaurants, McDonald’s, everything in our neighborhood was closed.” After leaving New York City for college, Isaac came back and worked for the New York Yankees and Central Park’s Wollman Rink before applying to be a visitor services host. She began working at the 9/11 Memorial in August 2011.

Isaac enjoys working with different youth groups, especially New York-based groups. “As New Yorkers, as well as Americans, they need to understand what happened here,” she said. Isaac is always sure to emphasize the 1993 World Trade Center bombing when speaking with youth groups. “They have to know that this happened too,” she said, “It’s an important part of the story.”

She emphasized that “every day on the job is a new experience” given the wealth and expanse of visitors the memorial gets. Military and veterans’ visits to the memorial in particular move her. “It’s really about the honor and what you are exposed to here,” she said.

Isaac described a particularly memorable experience with a visitor while working on the 11th anniversary of the attacks. Early in the day a woman came up to her, grabbed her hand and started speaking to her in Spanish. Isaac understood the woman when she said her son was “a good person, a good man.” Isaac grabbed several Spanish-speaking visitor services hosts and they went to look up her son’s name on the memorial. “She held my hand the entire time,” she said, “Though I don’t speak much Spanish, being able to communicate with her at that time was so meaningful. It was an amazing experience.”

Isaac finds working with family members is always an emotional time for her. However, this has given her a new perspective on their plight. “For family members, it’s hard on a level that people don’t realize,” she said, “Every day has got to be a struggle.”

By Emily Bonta, 9/11 Memorial Communications Intern