Deborah Taub, Cynthia Weinman, Erna Rubinfeld, and Stuart Rubinfeld

Recorded May 25, 2010 Archived May 25, 2010 38:44 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: DDB000759


Deborah Taub (57) and her sister Cynthia Weinman (56) had a conversation with their aunt, Erna Rubinfeld (78), and first cousin, Stuart Rubinfeld (49), to remember their first cousin (and Erna’s nephew), Victor Wald, who died on September 11, 2001 working as a stockbroker in the World Trade Center.

Subject Log / Time Code

Debbie introduces Victor Wald and remembers the morning of 9/11, not knowing he started a job at the WTC three weeks before the attacks.
Stu remembers the morning of 9/11, the view of the burning WTC, and thinking Victor shouldn’t have arrived to work yet.
Debbie recalls Victor’s weight, and Harry Ramos, who died with Victor trying to help him down the WTC stairs.
Erna and Cynthia agree that Victor’s death led to his parents’ death shortly after, remembering his burial on his 50th birthday.
Stu remembers Victor as a babysitter, recalls Victor losing an advertising job because of a slogan offered to Head, a tennis apparel company.
Erna revisits the surprise when officials found Victor’s body intact after dying on the 36th floor when the tower collapsed.


  • Deborah Taub
  • Cynthia Weinman
  • Erna Rubinfeld
  • Stuart Rubinfeld

Recording Location

NS11MM - Preview Site

Venue / Recording Kit

Partnership Type

Fee for Service


StoryCorps uses Google Cloud Speech-to-Text and Natural Language API to provide machine-generated transcripts. Transcripts have not been checked for accuracy and may contain errors. Learn more about our FAQs through our Help Center or do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions.

00:00 2

00:03 Good morning. I'm Debbie tab. I'm 57. We are here recording about cousin Victor Wald. It's May 25th, 2010. We're down at the World Trade Center. I'm here with my sister Cynthia my aunt Erna rubinfeld and my cousin Stuart rubinfeld.

00:28 My name is Cynthia weinman. I'm 56 years old and Debbie said who we're here with and and we're here to talk about the cousin Victor.

00:41 Hi, I'm only rubenfeld. I'm 78 and Victor was my nephew.

00:50 And I'm Stuart rubinfeld. I'm the baby of the family. I'm 49, and we're here to talk about our cousin, Victor.

01:00 September 11th, as everyone says started out like a regular day. I was at work at the teacher we heard about what happened. There was total chaos. All the cell phones went out. I was teaching out on Long Island. Everything was very frightening especially because my whole family really was in the city my husband my children everyone worked or went to school in the city and I was out on Long Island my parents were in the city my sister, but the strange thing was that we didn't know that Victor Wald was in the World Trade Center. He had just taken this job just a few weeks before this happened and when I did manage to reach my mother, and she said that my aunt was very concerned about Victor.

01:53 I was very surprised I said, what do you mean what why you worried about Victor? And she said while he was working in the World Trade Center. We are just found this out.

02:05 Victor and I were very close he was a first cousin but he was really like a brother.

02:12 Are because we grew up together.

02:15 And he was he was very close to me. He was very funny. You could always make me laugh and very very smart Victor was someone that you always wanted to talk to and talk about politics with and talk about what was going on, but we shared we just shared a lot together growing up.

02:39 He was also a wonderful husband to Becky and a wonderful father.

02:45 And we will really miss him.

02:50 Okay. I'm on a 911 I was actually in New Jersey at a meeting and I thought there pretty early I was there.

02:58 At about must have been about 8:30 8:45 in the morning and my meeting was supposed to start thinking about 9:30. I was there early sitting in an office and somebody said oh, it's crazy yet a plane just hit the World Trade Center. I thought oh my God. So we all went to the window. We were actually right across from the Holland Tunnel is Jersey City to see a very full panoramic view of the World Trade Center and we were standing there and we saw the end of the North Tower burning thinking. Wow. Oh my God, how could a plane hit and we were just looking and while we were looking this was now just two to three minutes after 9. We saw another plane and somebody in my group said, oh gee that plane is flying solo and the next thing that we could see it would have disappeared behind the South Tower and the South Tower just exploded coming forward and then then someone else said do that that couldn't have just happen.

03:58 A chance and then at 9:30. We had heard that the Pentagon was hit and was obviously it was a terrorist attack and we're all just just mesmerized standing and watching and watching and watching and at some point that that was the most bizarre thing that the South Tower came down.

04:21 And I like you could it just sounded like a collective?

04:27 Shriek like from the world.

04:31 And that was like the most bizarre time for me. Just kind of

04:38 Just kind of watching Once our Standing Bear fur for another half hour. And then you're just seeing the smoke in the dust and and just watching that scene one Tower standing there. And then that's how it came down and say my whole group the whole business college just standing there in shock and then I had a similar experience at and to Debbie. I I tried to reach my mother the phones were jammed somehow. I finally got through to her and she said, you know time to Fanny's worried about Victor and I have the exact same like Victor. What why does Victor and she said he worked in the World Trade Center. If Annie says and I said, no it didn't he could what you do the last he when I leave work there two weeks and I thought he was still working somewhere in Midtown and I don't think you work there Mom and she said known as what time the penny is saying so

05:32 Another hour or so past. I'm a little like you do as I say in shock and Southern Kizi Victor sister called and she said the guy she left me a voicemail at the office and just connect to me find Victor find Victor that taking people to hospitals. I think maybe he's in New Jersey. Maybe he's in a hospital in New Jersey. So I ended up being a new jersey for another 24 hours cuz there was a way to get back and it was a horrible story all day. I ended up in a hotel at about noon and I just went to sleep I slept for 3 and 1/2 hours. I have decided just said such shock. I just didn't know what else to do other than go to sleep. And when I woke up, I looked at my hotel window and I saw I saw a building 7 come down. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon. I was watching the World Trade Center site and I just show up and that's when building 7 came down. It was just

06:32 Unbelievable. I did you know in the evening, you know, I I I have my car and I ran around to hospitals and I did the same thing the next morning. I went to every hospital. I was in the remote region there and I came in and I said it is anyone hear from you know from the world and they all look no no. No, there's no one there is no there's no one no one was brought in. So it was a male completely sure we all day and I have been very very similar thoughts and feelings about Victor Perez as Debbie just said, you know, we grew up like brothers and sisters might my mother is the middle of the three sisters aren't as the youngest and Victor's mother was unfortunate now deceased is the oldest and they were six of us cousins and we all lived within about a five-block radius and you know, we grew up like brothers and sisters and a picture if it is it's you know, it's it's the day that the

07:32 The interesting thing is ever since 9/11. The only person I want to talk to about 9/11 is Victor because Victor always had he was so brilliant and he always had such an amazing in a perspective on your on the political situation an understanding of why things like this happen and he was like the only person I really really really would have wanted to hear from about it. It's it's it's it's just just unimaginably tragic Victor's oldest daughter. Alex reminds me very much of of Victor. She's no she's now I think in her early twenties and she's to somehow very much like him. She's also just majoring political science and she just graduated. She's in graduate school now and she kind of has his sensibility in a lot of ways, but just like Debbie said he was a wonderful husband a wonderful father wonderful son. You know, I'm brother and

08:32 Cousin and it's been a week. We obviously I could hear it hear hear the emotion where you know, like like it like it was yesterday. So I still hard to believe that he's not with us.

08:49 I was home in Kew Gardens. I was listening to the radio when I heard what happened and then I turned on the TV and of course it was devastating but I have no idea that any of my family was involved until I spoke to my sister and she told me and from that time on I I was sitting just

09:16 7 gallon and looking and crying

09:20 And two things got worse and worse and worse and

09:24 Nobody knew what was going on and nobody knew where Victor was it and it was a terrible terrible time terrible time.

09:34 And it's hit it just doesn't get better because

09:41 We didn't know what was going on. We didn't know where he was a

09:46 And they found him first two months later, but we're thankful that they found him in one piece and we buried him on his 50th birthday.

10:02 End

10:06 I can't believe it's 9 years.

10:14 And we all miss him very much.

10:22 End

10:26 He was a great the kids. He really was very brilliant boy in every respect and he was he was

10:38 Was a nice kid and if the family is just not the same without him.

10:46 And unfortunately, his parents died soon after and I broke the whole family it really dude.

11:01 I was in on the way into work and I was on the approach to the Midtown Tunnel.

11:08 When I noticed the smoke coming out of the left side of my car, I saw a jagged hole in the North Tower. And the first thing I thought about was the bomb in the World Trade Center again, like they didn't 93 my most Vivid recollection was how perfectly clear the sky was. It was really just a beautiful crystalline day. And then I saw the second plane go when I was in my office within about 5 minutes. My office is down on 6th Street 2nd Avenue.

11:46 And usually had a clear view down 2nd Avenue of the World Trade Center. My secretary said to me you look like you've seen a ghost. What's the matter? And I said, I didn't see a ghost. I just saw a Pearl Harbor get everybody together and we got all the employees together and it was one of those rare moments of clarity of thought where I just said we're under attack and they're going to be more targets anybody that has to get off the island of Manhattan do it now cuz they're going to shut down the island and I remember

12:18 Having spoken to Victor about a week and a half earlier that he was transferred that he took a new job in the World Trade Center, but I didn't think he would be there because he typically didn't show up to work that early so I tried calling him and there was no answer on his phone. There's no answer on the home phone. I got a similar phone call from Kizi that Cynthia got who she just called me up and she said find my brother.

12:47 At that point our office had one of the few phones that were working in the area. So a lot of emergency Personnel were coming into our office to use our phone a lot of the people who had escaped the initial collapse of the South Tower or working their way up 2nd Avenue. They were coming into our office covered with white ash.

13:11 I went outside to try to see what what I could possibly do. I just remember fire engine after fire engine going down 2nd Avenue.

13:21 Some of the faces of the fireman and I'm not sure if they survived or not cuz they were heading towards the World Trade Center prior to the collapse and then during the collapse it.

13:37 It was surreal day to say the least it didn't it didn't nothing appeared real.

13:45 My bookkeeper was away on a cruise and I know her daughter was in the School of Visual Arts and her daughter called up crying hysterically that she didn't know what to do. And I told her to work her way down to to me and I would I would take take care of her and take her home the entire time trying to get in touch with Victor.

14:06 And then I got a phone call from Becky Victor's wife asking me to please try to find out something about where he could possibly be.

14:16 And I was in touch with Becky in with my aunt and uncle during the day.

14:22 In the following day, they didn't allow any vehicle vehicle traffic below 14th Street, but because I managed buildings in the area. They considered it to be an essential service dogs allowed down there and we went to the Armory. I went to the Armory to try to give any sort of description of what Victor was wearing. I was in touch with Becky in when I was interviewed by the people at the Armory. I was basically giving the description of his his clothing on the day that he went to work and they asked me if I had a hair brush or a comb so they could have some DNA my experience in the hospitals were pretty much the same as Cynthia. Everybody was saying that there were no injuries really that we're coming from the World Trade Center.

15:12 They turned our entire area into a triage.

15:18 And we were looking at the soldiers and fighter planes flying overhead, and I just couldn't believe that this was Manhattan.

15:26 I think that by the next day I started really having reality set in that they weren't going to be a lot of wounded and that the liquor of was lost.

15:44 And that's when a lot of floods of memories came back.

15:50 There's not much more that I can add to what everybody said. He was unusually brilliant. We had a 30-year conversation on religion and on politics and

16:04 Helia the terrible irony is that he would have been the first person that many people would have called to discuss the geopolitical impact of the World Trade Center of the irony that he was part of the story.

16:21 But he possessed a keen Minds. I remember one story where they once had in his old firm a contest account. How many jelly beans are in the jar and he wanted by counting very accurately North his guess was very accurate to the actual account when I asked him about it. He said he figured out the dimensions of the jar roughly in the dimensions of the Jelly Bean and did it all on his head.

16:45 He also has a very dry and great sense of humor and really knew how to keep an audience in stitches. And at the same time you could really learn a lot from him. We as Cynthia said we will grow up his brothers and sisters. So he really was and then a lot of respects our older brother. He introduced me to stop watches Swiss Army knives Beatles New York Rangers, which he loved rum and cokes when I was a little bit older and he left a gaping hole in our family.

17:26 One very interesting thing. Is that Victor there was three thousand people who died in the World Trade Center and Victor story has been written about and televised in spoken about like inordinately very interesting his name kept on popping up. The reason being Victor was very overweight. He really was obese. Unfortunately, despite all of our trying to get him to lose weight. It just wasn't happening and he had a bad back and he had rheumatic fever as a child. So he had a bad heart as well and he worked at believe it was up in the seventies or eighties and Tower one and when it was trying to get down he was having a very hard time getting down the stairs. He called his mother at one point in the morning and said don't worry actually someone with him called his mother. His name was Harry Ramos, and he said he was a

18:26 Stranger and he said to my aunt's don't worry. I'm helping Victor get down the stairs subsequently. There were many witnesses to things that happened evidently Victor was having a very hard time getting down the stairs and this man Harry Ramos stayed with him throughout and there were witnesses that saw a very heavy set man trying to get down the stairs and people who spoke about it. We're obviously very grateful to Harry Ramos. He unfortunately died as well. Just trying to help someone get out of the building but Witnesses put Victor at one point stopping and saying I can't go any further and

19:07 That's what that's what happened. But there was so many witnesses that the story popped up a lot in magazines and on TV. So to us he was it he really was a very large presence send no pun intended on that. He was he was a large presence in many many ways because of his intellect and his sense of humor and everything else and the fact that he was very much of a family person. He loved us all and cared about us.

19:35 And we have had him of course, but it's so it was very interesting that his name really was out there later on my aunt and uncle dedicated Street on West End Avenue on 81st Street and West End Avenue and it says Victor Wald way.

19:55 They have a story about Victor and Harry Ramos. I think it was it so many ways. Just I think this is you know, as as tragic as it is it sort of thought the hopeful and human part of this whole tragedy how a complete stranger just stopped on the stairs and you know, he was with other people in his company Harry Ramos was and and he stopped because Victor you don't want me to obviously nobody had any idea that the entire building was going to come down and I will obviously but how we could have run out every member of his firm got out, but he didn't he stopped and helped a total stranger who was you know, who is in distress? And I think they got him down as far as in Victor space. He started out I think on the 84th floor if I'm remembering in the 36th floor and that's when Harry called my own family. But anyway, it's it's so much of you know,

20:55 I mean weed and we obviously have hair.

21:08 Keep your voice.

21:19 The the you know, we had we as a family, you know, we have enormous gratitude towards towards Harry Ramos and just the idea that he was with Victor and and we we you know, what's it's terrible. We know how it ended but we also feel like Victor was with somebody who is caring about him and he wasn't alone. It must have happened in a Flash. I'm sure none of them realized what was about to happen and suddenly the building came down. They were in the North Tower and I think it was possible for them to really have known what what else was going on. So, you know, our our thinking is is wow amazing. And then again, we should just be the head but the love and Humanity in that in the midst of something so horrible that's happening. I to know that that that's within someone.

22:18 And I I remember my answer telling me that when Harry called from the hallway of the 36th floor. He assured her that he wasn't going to leave it there.

22:32 That's that's the stuff of Legend, but I think it speaks volumes about New Yorkers. Then may have a tough exterior, but we really care about one another and I think of Cynthia said just to

22:46 Sort of juxtapose that Humanity next to the horror of of 911

22:53 Give you a lot of hope that there's this a lot of goodness in the world.

23:07 Are there any other stories you want to share about Victor? But you remember him. We were all Younger. What's interesting is that we now associate Victor with 911, but

23:19 Is whole life took place obviously before 9/11 and what I remember with him was just this very strong presence.

23:29 It was very reassuring. I don't think I've ever heard him raise his voice.

23:34 Play true just a quiet strength about him.

23:44 I studiously avoided anything having to do with the World Trade Center collapse four years in about a year or so ago a friend of mine gave me a DVD that there was some cable special called inside the towers. I think it was where he said, you know, your cousin story is depicted and I didn't

24:03 After watching it. I didn't think was particularly depicted well, but

24:09 I was the first time I watched anything and I was just touching a pillow and crying in my wife kept saying what why you putting yourself through this and it's that I sort of want to know what what he was going through but I'd much rather focus on what he was before that tragedy, which was just a great guy somebody who could talk about Tolstoy and somehow we've been to the conversation Bugs Bunny.

24:37 And the

24:40 Incredibly well-rounded also no pun. He was just really incredibly well-read. He was incredible history buff and expert on the Civil War that I think his true calling what she missed was Academia. I think that he could have easily stepped into the shoes of any history class in any university in the United States without missing a beat. We also also at that. He should have been a comedy writer. He missed his calling he he ended up as a broker. I don't even know why it wasn't really suited to him. He would have been a great professor and he would have been a great comedy writer. He was so funny. Just so so funny.

25:24 Missed his calling.

25:28 I say that I still have an an audio tape because I I taped it on by telephone Victor called me up one night. This is many many years ago. I think we were we were teenagers at the time but he did a full of imitation of my Russian piano teacher that was so hysterically funny. I mean it had her voice exactly and he did a whole number on it. And that was Victor. I mean he could you know from from anyone he could just get me laughing in a second. He was incredibly brilliant sense of humor and and and he was just like everywhere else saying that he's just so smart. I would call him if I don't know. You know what this is before the web. So, you know, if you needed to look up some little factoid you just call Victor and he would just tell it to you in one second and it could be on any topic. It could be literature history.

26:28 Any Topic in the world you just would call him up and he would just tell it to you.

26:35 Heroes mentioned before by my cousin's house Alex Victor's oldest daughter take so much after him.

26:43 And I think both the both of stories Alex and Danny have really the best of Becky and Victor. I look at the Danny and I see Victor very much. Like I look at Victor's nephew been a nice. I see Victor space and a lot of it looks just like him and Mikey to some extent also a lot of these memories that were talking about. I'm sure it's the same for you. I know it's for me. I really haven't thought about them in a long time and it's just Conjuring up exactly who victory was to us and making his loss that much more fresh and that much more painful.

27:28 And unfortunately this I believe it's it killed his parents. It really really did they somehow they gave up after what they just didn't want to live anymore.

27:44 Yeah that they were they were in in also complete denial about it particularly kind of phannie for the first week. I remember I came over when I finally got back into Manhattan that they say which was the day after I mean it I think 9/11 was remembering was a Tuesday. I didn't get back to New York till very late at night on Wednesday. And I remember coming over on Thursday and time to find he was just come and she was he's coming back and it's for the door taupe and and Becky Becky and the girls were there. I remember Alex was holding Danny. They were crying Becky was in shock and had accepting what what it was and the likelihood was your next to nothing that that we'd ever see Victor, but how the family was, until that New York Post story came out. I think it was Friday or Saturday with the whole story of Harry Ramos.

28:44 Victor we will calling each other saying you were not going to believe this but Victor's name is in all the newspapers. It says Victor Wald who else could it be and they described him perfectly. They described what what floor he was on we knew that kind of any of God Nicole from Harry Ramos and get as much as you didn't want to believe that this was really Victor and the and it was true that we weren't going to see him again. You're there it was and that was another just out just to Overlay in a surreal unterseher real just seeing his name in the papers and and reading that story is just overwhelming.

29:22 And and and he from from what I understand. I didn't even know he worked in the World Trade Center. At least I found that out of the day of 9/11. My mother said no, that's what families I said put the key doesn't he just doesn't mom and I didn't even accept it and then I heard your subsequent to that when he when he worked in the World Trade Center from the day he work there. He said his parents. I don't want to work in this building. This is a Target sell me some blow up this building. He said that from date from day one. That's what it said that you're not two weeks before before it happened. That's also just shows you Victor, you know, when we think about now and I think about so many of the things that he said and now in a new light and he really was going to press against and in that sense. He just he knew so much and he had still such a amazing understanding of of the world and politics and

30:22 And such an insight into it nicknamed him Buddha.

30:34 Possibly something because of his way but also because of his demeanor it just quiet and and brilliantly piercing and in his intellect and end.

30:49 I think that to a large extent we're not going to see somebody like picture ever again.

30:57 He also was very devoted to the family. He was very close to all of us any time. There was a a family celebration. He was the first one there. He was, you know, the first one to dance and he would always call me Debbie. Come on get up. Let's let's dance and he was very involved in all of our Lives. His birthday was three days after mine. He was a year older than me and he would call me every single year on my birthday on November 20th, and he would say these are my three favorite days of the year cuz we're the same age until he turned a year old on November 23rd. And unfortunately, his body was found as my aunt said right before his 50th birthday. His funeral was on his 50th birthday and my birthday 3 days before was a very hard day for me is the reality sank in that from here on and I wasn't going to hear him. Call me on my birthday.

31:56 Does it just to talk with a happy and funny memory that I have of the two of you having birthdays at around the same time when Victor was a child he was allergic to chocolate and our grandmother. Every year would bake cakes for Debbie and Victor and Victor would be this plain white sponge cake. And Debbie was the chocolate with chocolate inside and chocolate outside and a little more chocolate frosting on the top. And and I remember you do people say okay, you know who wants a slice of Victor's cake and nobody wants a decisive victories cake and then Who Wants A Slice of Cheesecake and of course everybody wants in a slice of deli pick lucky for Victor. He did outgrow that the allergy to chocolate

32:46 But it did. That's obvious you remember when I was also saw. Well, that's how how how how your two birthdays coincided interesting cuz all the cousins at one point or another were my babysitter and Victor. We have a home movie and this is before sounds on the home movies were Victor was my babysitter and he took a puzzle that we had been that I guess he had tried to get us to work on and the last of frame of the whole movie. He wrote in Freddy and Erna which are my parents names. I'm pooped and that's how the whole movie ends but we became very very close As I Grew Older and

33:34 It was a time where he switched from advertising and he was out of work for a while. He was still single and I would come into the city everyday. I was in college. I was off in the afternoons and we get together every day just to learn whether we were learning Judaica or history. We would just learn and he was also in the process of writing a book at that time. He tells the story of how we got kicked out of advertising. This will probably be censored and I'm not sure if it's true but it's a great story. He said that his company had the Head tennis and at the staff meeting he came up with the slogan head gets good tennis and next thing he knew he was unemployed.

34:21 I do want to also elaborate on something Debbie said before which and when Stewie said also, which is just how his his devotion and and keeping keeping close with the family kind of no matter what I remember and it's near the years before he died. I had started up a business during the 1990s. I was just very busy and very, you know, what kind of months would pass and I wouldn't think of anybody hardly if we stayed in touch and he in particular ways called me. I remember before Russia Shawna, you know to to wish you all a Happy New Year was always thinking about us and he was always available to us. I mean, I could not talk to him for months at a time. But when I called him he was right there always always so you know there for you and and then that's so that's something obviously that that that that we won't miss so much just his his

35:21 It's not just his presence in the family, but just his you know, his spirits and picture in general was he's a very spiritual person not religious, but very very spiritual.

35:36 It's interesting because the only time I ever remember Victor getting angry with me was about a week or so after his daughter. Alex was born and he called me up and he said how come you haven't seen the baby yet? And that was the only time I ever remember him being angry or disappointed. He really was in many ways glue that held a large part of the family together and we talked to Debbie was saying how his body was found and he was buried on his 50th birthday that was in November and it was at that point very very unusual for them to be finding whole bodies. Certainly not from the 36th floor. I think that and in many ways the fact that he became part of The Narrative of this terribly historic day and that his body came out of that hole make makes you question on a spiritual level.

36:37 Weather everything that he was working toward his whole life culminated in an ending that only Victor could have written frankly. He he lived history and not in a good way, but he lived it.

36:54 Sand in one respect really is that we were lucky that he was found in hole saw this unfortunately, that's not the whole at all or not. I remember fireman. I was with the my sister finally went a fireman came to the house to tell her that they had found Victor and that he was dressed as Surety pants. The only thing missing was one shoe. Otherwise, he was completely Jose even had a wallet that has money inside still and it's coming. So what so rare is that about

37:33 I don't think I've ever told this to anybody before but about three months after the burial. I got a phone call from a detective who said they think they found some remains of of my cousin and I said we buried my cousin and his body was intact and it just shows all the confusion that was really going on there. They were when I went down to the Armory the day after September 11th to go through loose leaves when I went by there a few times the descriptions of the body parts that were finding. We really just terrific they would be saying found left pinky finger with Signet ring and then talk about the initials. It's

38:12 If there is a higher power that wanted to give closure to the family and then we were blessed in that regard.

38:21 We just want to conclude by saying that how much we all love Victor and he lives on it and us he lives on in his two daughters will never be forgotten.