For Chloe Wohlforth, Sept. 11, 2001 started out like an ordinary day.
That began to change as she was sitting in her high school French class in Greenwich, Connecticut, and a friend came in and said a plane had just flown into the World Trade Center in New York City.
Chloe’s first instinct was that her father, Martin Phillips Wohlforth, 47, a managing director at Sandler O’Neill & Partners, with offices on the 104th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center, would be fine.
She quickly realized the situation was far more serious.
After getting picked up from school by her mother and grandmother, Chloe returned home to the beginning of a hectic time filled with a lot of uncertainty.
The family hung pictures of Martin, also known as “Buff,” in the city as a missing person. Chloe made an appearance on TV news to describe what her father looked like in case he was found hurt or in a hospital.
That frantic search eventually turned to mourning when it became clear Martin did not make it out alive.
At the time, it felt like the world had ended as she and her family knew it, Chloe recalls. There was also a constant stream of people dropping off flowers, food or calling on the phone.
“People just showed up in the most selfless way I had ever seen,” Chloe said.
While many asked, “How are you?” or “What can we do?” one couple asked that same question, but about the family’s finances.
Her mother’s response was “I don’t know,” Chloe said, because her father had always handled the money.
Those friends introduced her mother to a financial advisor, who helped them start to pick up the pieces in October 2001.
“We got lucky that someone decided to ask that hard question,” Chloe said.
A father’s legacy
Chloe, 36, remembers Martin as an exceptional father. “Of course, I’m biased,” she admitted.
Though he was dedicated to his career as a bond trader, he always put their family first.
On weekdays, he would wake at 4:45 a.m. to go to the World Trade Center. On weekends, he would get up at 5:45 a.m. to hit the golf course for the first tee-off time so he could have more time to spend with his family.
During the week, Martin would call Chloe, an only child, on her way to school to wish her luck on whatever test she was taking or game she was playing that day. While work was very important to him, he would walk in the door every night at 7:30 p.m. for dinner.
“I still feel his presence and support to this day,” Chloe said.
“I always tend to think how amazing it is that he was able to be such a source of support to the point where I can still draw on that.”
As she began to consider colleges, Martin had been adamant that Chloe should look around and find the best fit for her.
Though he had not pressured her to go to Princeton University, his alma mater, she enrolled there after graduating from Greenwich Academy in 2003.
At Princeton, she pursued a degree in art history. “I was and still am an art lover,” Chloe said.
After graduating in 2007, a career in financial services started to unfold. An internship at Bear Stearns led to a full-time job at a hedge fund.
When a position opened up at a wealth management firm, it was then that Chloe says she realized she would rather be directly helping individuals and families in the same way her mother’s advisor had helped her family.
A financial advisor’s influence
Today, Chloe is a certified financial planner and serves as managing director of the New York City office of Angeles Wealth Management.
The financial advisor her mother began working with in 2001 is still a part of their lives.
That initial introduction came at a time when both Chloe and her mom were in the “thick of all of the grief and despair” and also great uncertainty.
In addition to facing the loss of her husband, Chloe’s mother also confronted big questions. Would they also have to grieve their old life and start over? Would they have to sell their home? Would Chloe have to go to a different school? What about college?
Their financial advisor, who has asked to remain anonymous, went through every financial statement her mother could get her hands on and was there to read between the lines and figure things out, Chloe remembers.
He worked to make sure they were positioned in the best way possible, she said, from building an investment portfolio to navigating the huge amount of paperwork that comes with such a tragic event.
“He became her advocate like nothing I had ever seen before, and we were perfect strangers,” Chloe said.
While Chloe now has input on her mom’s financial situation, the advisor will “always be a huge resource” for her mom.
“What I really saw with him was how much compassion he had for my mom,” Chloe said. “It’s taken me years to understand what that means.”
The relationship was an “a-ha” moment for Chloe, she said. She knew she wanted to have her own financial freedom. At the same time, she also saw how powerful good financial advice could be.
Today, Chloe aspires to bring that same level of care to her clients, many of whom are women.
Her father, she said, would be pleased.
“I think he would probably be surprised and overjoyed about the type of work that I do and being at a place like Angeles,” Chloe said.
‘The Next Place’
For Chloe, remembering 9/11 on the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks is somewhat bittersweet. While the day represents unfathomable loss for so many, it was also a time of unity.
“People really rose to the occasion and helped in any way that they could,” she said.
Twenty years later, some of those efforts continue to pay themselves forward.
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, many people sent Chloe books on death and grieving. One children’s book titled “The Next Place,” by Warren Hanson, particularly touched her.
That inspired Chloe to start a campaign to send the book along with handwritten notes to all children who lost loved ones during in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. For help, she enlisted the help of other students and teachers.
At a recent funeral, someone approached Chloe to tell her they had received a copy of “The Next Place.” Inside the book was an article about the project with her picture.