In 2001, grandparents Stanley and Gloria Weinstein barely had time to mourn their daughter when they were thrust back into the role of parents.
After their daughter, Lisa Ehrlich, lost her life in the 9/11 attacks, the couple became the legal guardians of their two grandsons, then 12 and 13.
With their son-in-law too grief-stricken to care for his stepsons, the Weinsteins put on hold their plans to leave their four-bedroom Brooklyn home, even though Gloria, who suffers from Peripheral Arterial Disease, found its four floors difficult to negotiate.
“Let me tell you, child-rearing from the 1970s, when my children grew up, to the 2000s was like night and day,” said Stanley. “But we were very blessed to have two wonderful grandchildren who were never in trouble.”
Lisa was 36 and living in Brooklyn in 2001, when she rose from temporary typist to broker for insurance giant Aon, working on the 105th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
“On Sept. 10, 2001, she took the test for brokerage and passed,” recalled her father. “She didn’t have to be in the building on 9/11. She had an 11 o’clock appointment in Connecticut, but she was such a diligent worker, she went in at eight that morning.”
Stanley recalled the last time they spoke to their daughter, just after the first plane struck the North Tower.
“She called my wife to say she was all right, and Gloria suggested she leave immediately,” he said. “She said, ‘No, I have one more phone call to make.’ She called her boss’s wife to tell him if he wasn’t at work yet, not to come in. She saved his life.”
“We just miss her so much,” said Gloria. “We both miss her.”
Stanley, then working in an office on 42nd Street, saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center.
“We made phone calls to every hospital asking if they had a Jane Doe matching her description,” he recalled, his voice trailing off. “You have no idea — the anguish.”
Recovery teams found only Ehrlich’s femur bone. Months later the family held a memorial service attended by about 1,500 people. “She was well loved,” said Stanley.
And well-organized, as the Weinsteins came to appreciate after they became the boys’ guardians. The younger boy had a bar mitzva service scheduled for five months after his mother’s death. “Lisa was so prepared she had already gotten him bar mitzva lessons and had everything completely taken care of prior to her demise,” recalled Stanley, who was reluctant to give the boys’ names without their permission.
The couple stayed in Brooklyn until their youngest grandson graduated high school, only moving to their adult community in Plainsboro four years ago.
“We had to stay because of the boys,” said Stanley Weinstein. “We did what we had to do. You have no idea how difficult it was for them.”
He said the younger one is now a dean’s list student at New York University. His older brother graduated from the State University of NY at Stony Brook. They now share an apartment in New York City.
Their proud grandfather credited his two sons, who pitched in to help with their nephews, as the family pulled together to create a “success story” out of tragedy.
The two grandsons “are now two successful young men doing their mother proud,” said Stanley. “I’m only sorry their mother isn’t here to see it.”
Ehrlich was active in the East Midwood Jewish Center in Brooklyn, which installed a stained-glass window in her honor and established the Lisa Ehrlich Memorial Education Fund.
Stanley recalled that his daughter had been named a “Girl Scout First Class” in her younger days. He said she lived up to the organization’s motto that “a Girl Scout leaves a place better than she found it”.”
“She was an angel,” said Stanley. “I had three kids, and she was my only girl. It would have been a better world with her in it than without her.”