Rebuilding at Ground Zero

Jeff Brown's daughter, Faith Marie, was 3 months old on Sept. 11, 2001. He was still groggy in the early morning, he recalls, as he carried her to the couch and then turned on the television news.

Before his eyes, the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City unfolded.

"I saw the first tower that was hit fuming with smoke. I was confused," said the Ashland High School graduate. "As I listened to the reporters speculating and reporting, I watched the second plane hit the second tower. It was surreal.

"I have that same feeling when I reflect about my role on this project — it's surreal, almost unimaginable."

More than 11 years after the attack, the 40-year-old Brown plays an important role in the ongoing work at the World Trade Center, where a new tower nears completion, above a memorial that opened Sept. 12, 2011.

When the spire atop One World Trade Center is finished sometime this year, the entire structure will stand 1,776 feet tall, commemorating the nation's independence.

Also known as the Freedom Tower, it will stand taller than any building in the Western Hemisphere.

Brown, whose most recent home was in Jacksonville, is corrosion engineer consultant for Pittsburgh-based KTA engineering. He specifically oversees the coating process of millions of square feet of steel going up at the complex on lower Manhattan.

"I'm the eyes and ears of the supervising engineer of the New York Port Authority," he said. "I'm here to observe, document and record their performance."

When it's done, the 16-acre complex will include five skyscrapers, the already-completed memorial and museum, the third-largest transportation hub in New York City, due to be done in 2014, a performing arts center, shopping venue, two new streets and all the associated communication and utility infrastructure.

When Brown isn't in New York, he's traveling the world where other contractors have fabricated steel pieces of the giant puzzle. He spoke earlier this week by phone while heading back to Pittsburgh from the Montreal area, where he spent 15 months during the manufacture of the spire of the tower.

Brown has to make sure every specialized spray coating is done to specifications, every procedure done by the book.

He landed his current gig with the WTC project at least partly because he's fluent in Spanish. The steelwork for the transportation hub was fabricated by a company in Spain.

"I got a call on a Friday. KTA got a hold of my resume, and they asked me if I still spoke Spanish. I said yes, and they asked me if I'd like to go to Spain for six months for a World Trade Center project. They said, 'We need you there Monday.'"

Brown said that's common in the corrosion prevention industry, as there are just 1,500 National Association of Corrosion Engineers with the highest Level 3 status, which he has.

The globetrotting Brown sold his house in Jacksonville after that, but he still has a post office box there, and gets back to the Rogue Valley occasionally to visit his now 11-year-old daughter in Central Point.

He also likes flying his daughter to his work.

"She came to New York, saw the work I did in Spain, saw the 911 Memorial, and Tower 1. She also went to Canada twice, once for two months of the summer. She was able to be part of history with me."

Brown started his own construction company after graduating from Linfield College in 1994, then spent seven years with Lithia Motors traveling the country as the company expanded from 32 to 109 dealerships.

Armed with a Master's in Business Administration degree, he expanded into quality assurance for industrial companies, and worked on aircraft carriers in Bremerton, Wash., and various other Northwest-based projects before landing the WTC project work.

Brown, who was headed back to Oregon earlier this week, leaves in less than a week for Guam, where he'll supervise a project at Anderson Air Force base.

He said seeing the World Trade Center project stretches the imagination.

"It's beyond words. You truly have to go experience it for yourself. Each individual will have their own personal 'take away.'

"Being recruited to this project has been an unbelievable honor. It has reinforced my belief that hard work, continued growth and striving to be the best you can be always leads you to a place you never dreamed of."

Reach Grants Pass Daily Courier reporter Jeff Duewel at 541-474-3720 or

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