Jonathan Ielpi, 29, was a very talented hockey player who gave it up completely when he joined the FDNY just so he would never injure himself and impair his work as a firefighter. That’s how much he loved the job. He came by the job “honestly” – his brother’s a firefighter as was his father – well-decorated and five years retired on 9/11. Ielpi was a six-year veteran of the FDNY but had been a firefighter for twice that, joining the Great Neck Vigilant Volunteer Fire Department on Long Island when he was just 17. By 9/11 he was their Chief. This son of a firefighter had two sons of his own, aged 3 and 9. Jonathan called his father that morning. “Turn on the TV,” he said, “we’re going to the World Trade Center.” “OK, buddy. Be careful.” his father answered.
Lee Ielpi – Jonathan’s father – arrived at the WTC about 20 minutes after the second collapse. He was there every day for the next nine months, bonding with other firefighter fathers looking for their sons. Jonathan’s body was found intact in a fragment of a stairwell in the South Tower on December 11th, three months to the day after the disaster. Lee stayed on the job looking for other sons for six more months.
In time, Lee was one of the founders of the September 11th Families Association which created the Tribute Center next to Ten House down at Ground Zero. Jonathan Ielpi’s turnout coat and helmet are on display there: www.tributewtc.org.