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STORY BY DAN D’AMBROSIO
PHOTOS BY JARROD BUNK

On September 11, 2001, former New York City fireman Tim Brown was about 30 feet from Tower One of the World Trade Center when it collapsed into a maelstrom of toxic dust and materials. Brown was no longer a fireman on 9/11, but he was instrumental in the rescue operation that tragic day. Brown was working for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s Office of Emergency Management and was returning to the stricken tower with three paramedics when it collapsed. He soberly recalled that the lobby was so full of gravely wounded people that it was impeding the rescue operation underway.

“My maker decided it wasn’t my time, because I should be dead,” Brown said. “Anyway I survived, and will use my voice to tell the truth of what happened that day and who did it.”

That’s exactly what Brown, 56, has been doing for the past 17 years, giving speeches around the country, hammering home the point that more first responders and others have died since 9/11 from health problems — mostly cancer — than the 2,977 people who died on that tragic day. Brown is working for the Pentagon now, playing his role in prosecuting
the five terrorists who planned the attack on the World Trade Center.

He says everything he does is to honor the memory of the “innocents murdered on 9/11.” And now he has another way to honor them — the September 11th National Memorial Trail (911trail.org).

The 1,300-mile trail ties together the three sites of 9/11 for cyclists and hikers: the National September 11 Memorial in New York City, the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, and the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. “The trail is absolutely another way to keep their memory alive,” said Brown, a recreational cyclist himself.

“It’s a very unique and interesting way to do it.” Eric Brenner, the vice chair of the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance, was one of a group of four riders who completed an inaugural ride of the entire route in 23 days earlier this year. Brenner, 69, is semiretired after working for state governments in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Illinois. A dedicated cyclist, he rode around the world with his wife in 1987 — “before kids,” he said.

Brenner is also currently the chair of the Maryland Bike/Pedestrian Advisory Committee. The 9/11 Trail is about half on-road and half off-road, Brenner said, and utilizes some well-known existing trails like the C&O Canal and the Great Allegheny Passage. Brenner said there are some “killer hills” on the trail and one or two tough stretches every day. Brenner reminisced about his experience riding the Trail, while explaining that the riders in his group stayed with families along the way rather than camping.

“One day we were staying with the most conservative right wing people you could imagine, the next day we were staying with hippies, but they had an equal reverence for the idea of a pilgrimage trail,” Brenner said. “The idea resonated with people more than just a long bike ride would.”

“When you look at the route we’ve designed, it certainly hits the historic sites of America, from Valley Forge to Independence Hall to Gettysburgh, and obviously the three 9/11 sites,” said David Brickley, founder and president emeritus of the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance. “But it also hits those communities that have demonstrated resilience and perseverance, such as Johnstown because of the flood [of 1889 that killed more than 2,000 people], or Bethlehem, going from being the largest steel-making facility in the world to coming back now and really promoting tourism and taking advantage of recreational opportunities.”

Brickley spent 22 years in the Virginia legislature where he chaired the state parks subcommittee. From 1998 to 2002, he moved over to the executive branch of state government as director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. It was in that capacity that he chaired a multi-governors’ conference on trails that was set for September 15, 2001, at the Crystal City Marriott, about three blocks south of the Pentagon Memorial.

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