9/11 Firefighter Tim Brown Talks About Loss, Healing and Faith

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Brown, who is now retired, is a decorated 20-year FDNY firefighter. He survived the attack on the World Trade Center and was a first responder to the 1993 terrorist attack at the building complex in lower Manhattan. He is also a veteran of the task force that responded to the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City. 

READ: A Journalist Looks Back At The 9/11 Attacks To Educate Future Generations

As a result of 9/11, Brown lost over 100 of his colleagues, including his two best friends: Captain Terry Hatton and Captain Patty Brown.

Brown found his calling in sharing his story of 9/11. He currently serves on the board of the September 11 National Memorial Trail and volunteers for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

The first time this reporter heard Brown’s story was at the Steamboat Institute’s Freedom Conference in picturesque Beaver Creek, Colorado. After his speech, we had the opportunity to talk for a few hours. At first sight, he gave the impression of a tough New Yorker. However, one could quickly conclude that Brown is a soft-spoken and warm-hearted man.

A lifelong New Yorker, Brown lives and breathes the Big Apple. His life is inseparable from the destiny of New York City. Brown spoke with Religion Unplugged in time for this year’s anniversary to discuss the attacks, healing and faith in the aftermath of the attacks.

Jovan Tripkovic: Last time we talked, you told me that 9/11 wasn’t only an attack on America, but also on the ideals of the free world and Western Civilization. Could you provide further insight into this perspective? 

Tim Brown: You’ll hear people say that on 9/11, 2,977 Americans were murdered by radical Islamic terrorists and that’s not factually correct. What is factually correct is 2,977 innocent human beings from 90 countries were murdered by radical Islamic terrorism. When you think about that, 90 countries, right? This is what New York is! This is the melting pot! And this is the World Trade Center! People from all over the world who believe in freedom, and, in this case, capitalism come to New York. So that’s who was in the building that day. Those were the folks that were in the building. 

When you ponder on it more, it becomes clear that this was truly evil attacking innocent people. 

The kind of the clash of civilization. People come to America because of our freedom. People come to America because of our diversity and we’re better for it. We’re a better society for that. People come here because they want to live in freedom. 

Tripkovic: You are the man of faith. How did 9/11 and the aftermath change you and your faith? 

Brown: I have a couple of stories that confirmed my faith and my belief that have to do directly with 9/11. The Friday night before I was in New York City working at 7 World Trade Center. When I got off work at 5:30 or 6 p.m., I was very lonely. I was not in a really great emotional place in my life. I just went out to the promenade on the Hudson River and sat down to have a beer. My body started decompensating, which means I was just sweating from everywhere in my body, including soaking my socks and my pants and my T-shirt. I was cold and I was shivering! I thought something was wrong with me.  

At the time, I didn’t know what it was, but I felt this extreme cold. It scared me so much that I didn’t drink my beer. I left it there, and I walked five miles home. And then 9/11 happened on the following Tuesday. I kind of forgot that that had happened to me.  

I found out later what happened to me from a man I met, when I told him that story. He opened the book. The book was highlighted with pink and blue highlighters, and very well worn. He goes right to a page, and he says read this and I read it. It describes what happened to me on that Friday before Tuesday. The book was the Bible! The part he pointed out to me talked about spiritual discernment. When you are in a vulnerable place: personally, emotionally, sometimes you are able to sense other realms. I believe that’s what happened to me that night.  

I had no idea that was in the Bible, I didn’t know what spiritual discernment was. However, I did experience that evil gathering a few days before 9/11. I am no conspiracy guy or anything, that stuff really happened to me the Friday before the Tuesday. It confirmed to me that there is good and evil. That we need to fight evil. And that we need to call evil evil!  

The second story is about my survival. When the South Tower collapses, I am in an adjoining building in the Marriott Hotel and it collapses around me. I am holding on to this vertical column and the wind is trying to blow me out on the street because as the Marriott Hotel collapsed around me, all that air had to get pushed out somewhere and it was getting pushed where I was.  

My legs were up in the air. It was trying to push me out into the street. I was holding on to this column with all my might. It blew the helmet off my head. It stopped within; I am guessing 30 seconds. I was able to hold on to that column and it saved my life.  

Now later they did a study, a scientific study of that space, because they wanted to know why us the group of people who survived there, why we survived, what was the difference there as compared to the 16 acres. We were the biggest group of survivors in the 16 acres. They brought in a volcanologist. He proves scientifically that the wind where I was, was 185 miles per hour.  

If you think about it, there’s no way that I could have held onto that column with just my own human strength. There’s just no way! It would have ripped me off that column and blown me into the street. The only way I was able to hold on to that column was with his strength! 





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