Joe Daniels, 9/11 Memorial Chief, Announces He Is Stepping Down

In 2012, Joe Daniels led a tour of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, still under construction. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Jun. 22, 2016

Saying “the time is right to seek a new challenge,” Joe Daniels announced on Wednesday that he is stepping down as president and CEO of the September 11 Memorial and Museum. Daniels, 43, has held the position since 2006.

In his letter to the Memorial board, Daniels said he would remain on the job “to ensure a smooth transition,” which he said he hoped would be completed by the end of the year.

“I am so proud of what we have built here,” Daniels, said in his letter, “but as the Memorial & Museum transition from the start-up phase, I recognize that I want to again dedicate myself to building something from the bottom up, and at the beginning.”

In 2005, the Memorial hired Daniels, who lives with his family in Tribeca, as its general counsel. He became the president a year later. During the 10 years of his leadership, according to the Memorial, the institution grew from a staff of 40 and an annual budget of $12 million to about 500 in-house and contracted personnel and an $80 million budget.

In a statement, Michael Bloomberg, the 9/11 Memorial board chairman and former New York City mayor, said: "When Joe was first hired a decade ago, Ground Zero was a hole in the ground and the memorial and museum were plans on the drawing board. Thanks in no small measure to Joe's outstanding leadership, we now have a magnificent tribute to all those who lost their lives and gave their service on 9/11.”

Below is the full text of Daniels’s letter to the 9/11 Memorial board.


Dear 9/11 Memorial Board,


As we approach the 15th anniversary of 9/11, I have been reflecting on the deeply inspiring journey I have been on since joining the Memorial & Museum in 2005. Back then I could never have imagined what we have achieved together: More than 26 million people from all over the world have visited the Memorial since 9/11/2011, and more than 6 million people have visited the Museum in its first two years.


With your support and the devotion and faith of 9/11 family members, rescue and recovery workers, survivors, generous contributors, and so many others, we have built a world class institution that serves as a fitting reminder of all we lost on that terrible day and a testament to our commitment to remember and rebuild.


That work will endure; but for me, after a decade as President, the time is right both for me to seek a new challenge, and for the 9/11 Memorial to begin the next phase of its life with a new  leader who can build on our work. I plan to help ensure a smooth transition and will remain in my position until we can start this new chapter, with the goal of beginning it before the end of the year. I am so proud of what we have built here, but as the Memorial & Museum transition from the start-up phase, I recognize that I want to again dedicate myself to building something from the bottom up, and at the beginning.


It would be impossible to convey what a true honor it’s been to work for and learn from this extraordinary Board of Directors, with Mike Bloomberg at the helm. In this project and everything else, Mike is an inspiration for all who want to make the world a better place. I look forward to thanking each of you for the tremendous insight, guidance, and dedication you’ve brought to the heart of the World Trade Center rebuilding.


There will be time for me to communicate with all those who have made such an impact on this project over the coming months, but as I think about the last 11 years, I of course think first of the 9/11 families, rescue and recovery workers, survivors, lower Manhattan businesses and residents, and so many others who graciously helped to make the Memorial and Museum the powerful places they are today: it has been the privilege of a lifetime to share their stories.


And I am unequivocally proud of the staff team and all we’ve achieved together. They are a group of fiercely dedicated individuals who pour their hearts into the mission of this sacred place every single day. I am profoundly grateful to them for all they’ve done to make the Memorial and Museum a reality, and to ensure a meaningful experience for the millions who set foot on this site. I could not be more confident that they will carry the Memorial and Museum into the future in the same spirit of hope and love. When I started here as the 11th employee back in 2005, we had a mission, and with many more added to our ranks as we went, we forged a relentless path to the creation and 10th anniversary opening of the Memorial and then to the 2014 dedication of what has already become one of the world’s most impactful museums.


I often think back to the moment that I arrived at the World Trade Center stop on the downtown E train at 8:50 a.m. on the morning of September 11, 2001. I of course had no idea then what was to come for those so indelibly affected and for this site. I feel blessed to have played a part in helping transform a place that has seen so much pain to one that now provides so much inspiration. I care deeply about this place, its mission, and its people, and I wanted to ensure this transition would be as open and seamless as possible. This project has been as important to me personally as it has been professionally, and I will carry it with me all my life.


Serving as President & CEO of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum over the past decade, and working with all of you, has been a true privilege – and the experience of a lifetime that has meant the world to me.


With warmest regards,