Editor’s Note: Many times we walk past giants and never see them. Such is the case with William Jimeno of New Jersey, one of only two men found alive after the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center (WTC) on September 11, 2001. As a first responder, he put his life on the line for others who didn’t survive. This Mossy Oak Pro Staffer and avid deer hunter has a story to tell that we all need to hear, remember and then draw courage from what happened.
Upon arriving at the WTC, the scene was much like what I thought the Battle of Armageddon would look like. We could see the hole in 1 WTC, and we saw that one corner of 2 WTC was on fire. While we were on the bus, the second terrorist plane had crashed into 2 WTC. All of a sudden, one of our senior officers, Ronny Delmar, pointed up and said in a loud voice, “Look, they’re jumping!” As I turned to look at him, I saw tears from his eyes, before looking up and seeing people jumping out of 1 WTC as flames enveloped it. There were individuals jumping, and people holding hands as they jumped. The last person I saw jump was a gentleman with tan pants, a pinkish shirt and blonde hair, and he jumped holding both hands out to his side like Jesus on the cross. Then he was gone. We could hear the screams of people as they jumped. I became a cop to serve and protect the people, and at that point I felt more helpless than I’d ever felt in my life.
I heard Sgt. John McLoughlin, who was in charge of the rescue, yelling, “I need volunteers who know how to handle a Scott Air-Pak (those upside-down metal bottles that firemen wear on their backs attached to a full face shield that supplies air to firemen as they go in to smoke and burning buildings). Dominick Pezzulo, Antonio Rodrigues and I volunteered. Rodrigues, Pezzulo and I were in the same class at the Port Authority Academy and had graduated in its 100th class. We told Sgt. McLoughlin that we knew how to use the Air-Paks, because we’d just graduated from the academy. The three of us went with Sgt. McLoughlin and put-on our Air-Paks. Our team of four then went into 1 WTC and immediately saw glass, debris, body parts and human remains.
Sgt. McLoughlin told me to take our hats and our nightsticks back to the truck and drop them off in the Suburban. Then he said to get us firefighter helmets and bunker coats (the big heavy fire-resistant long coats that firefighters wear). When I got to the Suburban, I saw that it had been hit by a large piece of concrete. As I looked back at 2 WTC, I could see large groups of people being herded out like cattle, thousands and thousands of people. Dominick and I got the helmets and bunker coats - but the only size left was smalls, for little guys, and neither Dominick nor I fit the description of a little guy. While we were gathering-up equipment, Dominick and I looked at each other and promised, “Okay, we’re not going to get separated; whatever happens, we’re going to stay together.” When we came out with the equipment, Sgt. McLoughlin was talking to a detective who had a piece of the plane in his hand. I wondered why a piece of the plane was there. Sgt. McLoughlin said, “Okay, guys, grab one of these mail carts, load it up with Air-Paks, bunker coats, axes and any other type of firefighting equipment you can find.”
We asked Christopher Amoroso, who just had been transferred from the bus terminal to the WTC and who we had worked with before, to join us Once we had the gear, I asked Sgt. McLoughlin if I could hook up with him (be a part of his group going to WTC). Sgt. McLoughlin was a good cop, and he was someone I’d trust with my life and go through burning doors with him. Now we were a team of five. I was pushing the cart with the equipment in it. We went up one level to the mall level. Sgt. McLoughlin said, “We’re going to Tower Two to get more equipment from Tower Two to take to the officers in Tower One.” There was an emergency room in Tower Two that he thought might have plenty of equipment we could carry to the cops in Tower One.
As we walked toward 2 WTC, we saw more long lines of people walking in single file from 1 WTC. In the midst of the evil that had happened, I saw a lot of love. There were people dead on the ground, some injured, and people screaming, yet even with the amount of chaos all around us, we saw people helping people. One of the pictures I’ll never forget was a black gentleman and a white gentleman carrying a blonde-headed woman with a severe cut on her leg - all of them in a single file line. When I saw that many people helping each other, I said to myself, “I’m a uniformed officer, I should be doing more to help and defend.” We met-up with another team of Port Authority officers, and I spotted Warren Stewart, who was pushing a cart full of equipment just like I was. I knew while we were in the academy his wife just had had a baby girl. I heard Sgt. McLoughlin say, “Okay, let’s go.” Stewart and his equipment went one way, and we went another way after I told Stewart to be safe, and we punched hands. That entire team, including Stewart, was lost when the tower fell, and rescuers were never able to find their bodies.