An author is reflecting on the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks that still linger 19 years later.
“What Brothers Do” is a story about FDNY Capt. Patrick “Paddy” Brown, a Vietnam-era Marine, who died in the fall of the north tower on 9/11. Written by his brother, Dr. Michael Brown, the book brings readers on his journey to find his brother in the rubble and ash.
Paddy was the most highly-decorated FDNY firefighter on scene after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. He entered the north tower knowing he probably wasn’t coming back out.
The last moments of Paddy life were pieced together in the book for his brother by one of his partners on the FDNY, now-retired firefighter Tim Brown — a survivor of both the 1993 and 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. He described a scene where another team headed by Capt. Terence “Terry” Hatton became trapped in an early interior collapse.
“Mayday, mayday, mayday, rescue one is trapped” was heard over the radio. It is believed that Paddy gave his last breath trying to save them.
Tim had the chance to hug both of his friends before they went up. He says that although they had fought many fires together, this one was different.
“They both knew once they stepped into that stairwell, that was it. They knew they’d probably never come back down. They still did it. That is the most courageous and bravest acts of love, ever,” he said through tears.
Tim described the last phone call update that Paddy gave when he was on the 35th floor. He had just sent down rescued people who were badly injured and burned. Shortly after he hung up, the mayday call went out.
“He was a rescue fireman, an exceptional firefighter – Terry was trapped and Paddy was running up to get him out,” Tim said.
In the south tower at the time, Tim narrowly survived its collapse.
“I’m running north and I turn around to screams. When I look back, I see the north tower lean and collapse straight down. I know everyone is in there, I watched them go up through the stairwell. In that moment, I know Paddy, Terry and all of my friends are dead,” Tim shares.
Paddy and the other 342 firefighters who died saved over 25,000 people.
When the dust of the attack had settled, firefighter motion alerts continued to wail for days, attached to firemen buried in the rubble. Tim was one of the few survivors from New York Fire’s Special Ops Command, whose office was on the 23rd floor of the south tower. In the car from Vegas, Paddy’s brother Michael was on his way with one mission: To find his brother.
The book then brings you into the weeks after 9/11 that were spent combing through the rubble trying to find Paddy and other survivors. They held a memorial service for him on November 10 — the birthday of the Marine Corps and his as well. His body would not be found until December 14, 2001.
Michael spent almost 10 years writing the story of that fateful day and sharing Paddy’s life. Although originally published in 2010, it’s being relaunched for a new generation.
“Because we don’t teach the history of what happened at 9/11 to kids in school, we have to make sure that they understand the evil that created this event but also how the attacks pulled New Yorkers and people from all over the country together to help each other,” Michael said. “It was the kindness that overtook the evil and what rebuilt NYC and our culture.”
When asked what he wants the readers to take away from his book, his response was simple.
“Love can overcome evil and pain, I experienced it firsthand,” Michael said.
Michael was a firefighter himself in New York for years before he left to go to medical school and become a doctor. He was working a shift in his emergency room when the televisions started showing the attacks. Michael knew his brother would be in the thick of it. He spent weeks searching for his brother, refusing to give up saying,
“Nothing would stop me from looking for Pat.”
In the midst of searching, Michael witnessed incredible kindness and love throughout New York.
“The relationships and experiences I made with his friends and fellow firefighters was kinda beautiful,” he said.
Those weeks in the rubble and ash would impact him in ways he couldn’t imagine at the time, another reason for the relaunch of “What Brothers Do.” Michael now has an aggressive form of cancer, caused by the toxic dust he was breathing in as he searched for his brother and other survivors after 9/11.
He was asked if he would have still searched, knowing what he knows now.
“Absolutely! The cancer is the worst thing I have ever experienced — excruciating pain, uncertainty, wondering if I am dying, hoping it is the chemotherapy and chemicals making me feel this bad. The treatment failures have been devastating, but I still wouldn’t have changed anything,” Michael said.
Tim and Michael became very close after the events of 9/11, spending time together bonding over beautiful memories of Paddy. They also held each other through the darker memories of that fateful day, helping each other work through it all. It became their mission to tell the stories of Paddy and the other heroes of 9/11.
“We stand on the shoulders of legends. They are the greatest example of love in the history of humankind,” Tim said. “I want young people to know their stories, to be influenced by them and how they live their lives. I want the young people to never forget them.”