To Serve and Make a Difference: A Brother’s Journey

  • January 31, 2024
Joe Quinn stands outdoors at a 9/11 Memorial & Museum lectern, talking into a microphone
Photo by Jin S. Lee

When Brooklyn native Joe Quinn entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1998, he had an idea of what his future would look like. The country was not at war, so peacetime military service would shape life after graduation. However, Joe’s vision of the future radically shifted on September 11, 2001, when he became one of many who lost a loved one at the World Trade Center in New York City. Joe’s older brother, James Francis Quinn, was killed in the North Tower. He worked on the 104th floor.

Less than a year after the attacks, Joe graduated from West Point and was deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Joe then served a second combat tour in Iraq and a third in Afghanistan as a civilian advisor. Upon returning home, he returned to West Point as an associate at the Combating Terrorism Center. Afterwards, he assumed leadership positions at both Team Red, White & Blue and the Headstrong Project, non-profits serving military veterans. He also completed two master’s degrees from Harvard University and Baruch College.

Beyond career success, Joe, alongside his family, took up their own mission to honor Jimmy. Following the attacks, the Quinns organized a tribute at Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets. The annual “Jimmy Quinn Mets Game” brings together family and friends to celebrate Jimmy’s love for his favorite team. This tradition continues, now taking place at Citi Field. Since 2011, trips to the 9/11 Memorial have become another integral part of the family’s remembrance, “His soul is at the 9/11 Memorial,” Joe said. “But his spirit is in Citi Field.” In 2015, Joe and his brother Michael fulfilled a dream they shared with their brother of starting a business together. The pair opened Feltman’s Hot Dogs, reviving the famous Coney Island brand.

Looking back on his life of service, Joe recalls that 9/11 reaffirmed a decision he had already made, “I was already on a path towards military service. Watching what unfolded on 9/11, and particularly my brother Jimmy perishing in the North Tower, it just reinforced my commitment and resolve to serve and make a difference.”

As a member of the museum’s Visionary Network, Joe strives to make sure that the next generation, particularly those choosing to join the military, look to the past to best serve the present, “it's important that they visit the Memorial & Museum, not as an act of patriotism, but in an effort to find truth and understanding about that day and the wars that would follow after… the Memorial is not a place of sadness, but a remembrance of resilience. We all need to be reminded of that, to remember who we are as a country, and help inform where we want to go, together, in unity.”

This September, participants around the world can see Joe Quinn share his story, in his own words, as a part of the 2024 Anniversary Digital Learning Experience program. Register for this free program today.

by Meghan Kolbusch, Education Specialist 

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