Firefighter, Candidate For Congress Will Honor 9/11 With A Stair Climb In New Zealand

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Rupert Rogers, of Hamilton, New Zealand, holds an umbrella above a woman’s head as Weinstock provides emergency medical care on September 11, 2001. (Photo by Kiri Rogers)

Michael Weinstock will be joining New York firefighters and their New Zealand counterparts, as they wear firefighting gear and run to the top of the Auckland Sky Tower, the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere. The event is being organized by the United States Embassy, as a way of honoring the firefighters who were killed on 9/11.

Michael Weinstock is seeking to become the first 9/11 firefighter elected to Congress. He is a candidate in New York’s Third Congressional District; which includes sections of Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties. He is challenging Congressman Tom Suozzi in the Democratic Primary.

On 9/11, Michael Weinstock was working as an Assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn’s special victim’s bureau. He was also a firefighter and EMT with a volunteer fire company on Long Island. After looking out the window and seeing the massive amount of smoke pouring from the Twin Towers, he ran outside and waived down a passing ambulance.

Weinstock was unloading equipment from this ambulance when the first tower came crashing down. He was able to run to safety, although the ambulance was crushed and destroyed. His best friend was not as fortunate. Jonathan Ielpi was a volunteer firefighter on Long Island and a member of FDNY Squad 288, in Maspeth Queens. He was one of the 343 firefighters killed that day.

On the anniversary of 9/11, more than 160 firefighters will clamor to the top of the Auckland Sky Tower, in memory of their colleagues killed that day. Each firefighter will carry a special tag with the name of an individual rescue worker, dedicating their climb to that person’s memory. Weinstock is hopeful that he will receive his friend’s tag, although Jonathan is always in his thoughts, especially on the anniversary of 9/11.

“When I talk about Jonathan, I rarely talk about the terrorist attacks. I tell people about his phenomenal sense of humor and his amazing story-telling skills. That kid could control a room with his storytelling,” Weinstock said. 

Weinstock has a special connection to New Zealand. On the morning of 9/11, he was treating a victim who collapsed and had a heart attack. A married couple from New Zealand were tourists at the World Trade Center and they stopped to assist him. In the above photo, Rupert Rogers, of Hamilton, New Zealand, can be seen holding an umbrella above the woman’s head as Weinstock provides emergency medical care. 

Weinstock left the fire department to focus on his career at the District Attorney’s office. Today, running for Congress is his full-time job. One of the factors that heavily influenced Weinstock’s decision to run for office, was Congressman Suozzi’s decision to help disgraced politician Gerard Terry obtain a shorter prison sentence. Terry was a powerful party boss on Long Island for more than three decades. In 2018, Terry was convicted of failing to pay his taxes for fifteen years. Congressman Suozzi wrote a personal letter to the judge and successfully lobbied for a shorter prison sentence.

“I want New Yorkers to be proud of our elected officials again. That’s why I’m running for Congress and that’s why I’ve borrowed some fire gear and I’m running to the top of the Sky Tower,” Weinstock said.

Weinstock has been training by bringing the fire gear to his local gym and running on the Stairmaster.

“I’m really lucky that nobody has complained about my training. The gear is incredibly hot, and it gives off a smell that gets everyone’s attention,” he added. 

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