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Meet a 9/11 Memorial Host, who Served as a Marine

Tom Brown positioned under the Survivor Tree on the plaza. (9/11 Memorial Communications photo) Tom Brown positioned under the Survivor Tree on the plaza. (9/11 Memorial Communications photo)

Wisconsin native Tom Brown is one of many visitor services hosts posted throughout the 9/11 Memorial. A freshman in high school on Sept. 11, 2001, Brown remembers watching news coverage of the attacks while eating breakfast before school and later on televisions in his school’s classrooms. While most teachers turned the coverage off, Brown remembers his history teacher leaving it on claiming, “You are watching history.”

Brown enlisted in the Marines in 2007, shortly after high school. Brown’s uncle and grandfather served in the Corps, making Brown a third-generation Marine. His family and the events of 9/11 inspired him to enlist.

“It almost felt like the Pearl Harbor of our generation,” he said of the attacks.

He served in the Marines for four years. He was stationed in Camp Pendleton, Calif., before being discharged after a surgical procedure.

Brown would move to New York City with his girlfriend. He learned of a job opportunity with the 9/11 Memorial through the Warriors to Work program. He was hired at the memorial and began work as a visitor services host in October 2012.

Brown enjoys interacting with the Memorial’s visitors and hearing their 9/11 stories. “Every day you’re guaranteed to meet 10,000 new people,” he said, “There are not many jobs like that.” Brown recalled one instance when helping a visitor with a name impression she began talking to him about her friend who was on hijacked American Airlines Flight 11, the plane that crashed into the North Tower. Brown spoke with her for more than hour.

He also recently participated in the Memorial’s "Hero Tour" Google+ Hangout with Veterans United on Memorial Day. The hangout gave veterans who are unable to visit the memorial a virtual tour. Others who participated with Brown include 9/11 Memorial staff and board members, veterans, active armed forces and Veterans United staff. “The tour felt very conversational,” Brown said, “It felt just like I was doing what I do every day.”

Brown is also training to join either the New York City Police Department or the New York City Fire Department. He is currently taking emergency medical services classes and has interest in serving as an emergency medical technician with the FDNY when he finishes his coursework.

He often finds himself near first responders’ corner on the plaza. “They went up the stairs that day instead of down,” Brown said, “That takes a lot of guts.”

By Emily Bonta, 9/11 Memorial Communications intern