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Univ. of Iowa alum, former NYC firefighter reflects on 9/11

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 9:09 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Michael Weinstock graduated from the University of Iowa in 1994 with a degree in Political Science. He was working as a volunteer firefighter on September 11, 2001, and preparing for vacation.

“I wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near lower Manhattan as a firefighter that day,” Weinstock said. “I was in Brooklyn. It was actually the first day of my vacation.”

Like all brave first responders on 9/11, Michael Weinstock dropped everything to answer the call.

“So I quickly grabbed a bag with emergency medical technician supplies and a firefighter t-shirt, and I ran outside and I waved down the first rig I saw, it happened to be an ambulance,” Weinstock said. “I said ‘my name’s Mike, I’m a firefighter and an EMT,’ [they said] ‘good get in.’ Our original assignment was to go up to a staging area in the first tower to bring equipment that the burn victims would need, oxygen, saline, solution, bandages, stuff like that, and we were unloading our rig when the first tower came down.”

Weinstock made it to safety, but his childhood friend and fellow firefighter Jonathan Ielpi died when the towers collapsed.

“He was a wonderful young man, he had just gotten married and had kids,” Weinstock said, of his friend. “Had a wonderful sense of humor, and we had spoken the day before.”

Weinstock got to meet former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Hillary Clinton when they visited Ground Zero. He tries to block out the horrors he saw on 9/11, instead focusing on people coming together.

“The immigrants who were operating these pushcarts didn’t run,” Weinstock said. “They stayed and they just gave everything away one by one, and they didn’t run, they just gave everybody a bottle of Snapple. I think about the guys at the base at the Manhattan bridge who weren’t rescued workers, they were regular civilians, and they were picking people up, and bringing them up on the bridge.”

Weinstock is now retired as a volunteer firefighter and works full-time as a lawyer. He said time and counseling are helping to slowly heal his PTSD. Weinstock will spend the anniversary talking to kids in New York City and thinking about his friend.

“I looked at a photo of my friend Johnathan yesterday and I think every year he gets younger, how is this possible?” Weinstock said. “I miss my friend.”

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