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.
When our team of five Port Authority officers reached the lobby of 2 WTC, Sgt. McLoughlin, who was our leader, said, “Jimeno, you stay here. We’re going downstairs and talk to Officer Jimmy Lynch.” Lynch was in charge of the station at Tower Two. While I was standing in the lobby of 1 WTC, I could hear large chunks of concrete hitting the ground outside. Then I heard another sound and knew immediately what it was - bodies hitting the ground as more people jumped out of the flaming tower. While I was waiting in the lobby, I spotted Bruce Reynolds, an officer from the Washington Bridge, one of the leading officers in our drug interdiction department. This guy had talked down quite a few individuals who had come to the Washington Bridge to jump off and kill themselves. He was a great cop with 17 years on the job and shouldn’t even have been in the building, because he had a lung condition. He came up to me with his Scott Air-Pak on his back and told me, “This is going to be a long day, but we’re trying to get a lot of people back to their homes and families. Okay, I’ll see you later.” He went to the command center in 2 WTC. Later we learned that he didn’t survive, nor did any of the other officers in the command center of 2 WTC. As Bruce Reynolds was walking away, Sgt. McLoughlin and the rest of our team brought in more fire-fighting equipment and loaded it in the cart. Antonio Rodrigues told me, “You’ve been pushing the cart and equipment ever since we started. When we get to the tower, you’re going to be tired and exhausted and not able to work. So, let’s switch-off, and allow each one of our men to have a turn at pushing the cart.” Rodrigues got behind the cart and began pushing it.
Before we got halfway to 1 WTC, Sgt. McLoughlin got a call on his radio asking where we were, and he told them. A team of firefighters with an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) came past us headed to 2 WTC. I heard Sgt. McLoughlin tell them to be really careful in Tower Two. “Something’s wrong with it. I saw the elevator shafts beginning to buckle in the basement level.” About that time we heard a big boom! I turned around and looked into the lobby of 2 WTC where I saw glass breaking and a huge fireball, about the size of my house envelop the lobby of that tower. The ground shook like an earthquake. We had stopped close to an elevator, and I heard Sgt. McLoughlin screaming, “Run, run toward the elevators!” I had learned long ago to follow a leader who can lead you into harm’s way and lead you back to safety, and that’s the reason I had asked Sgt. McLoughlin for us to be a part of his team. He was that kind of leader. We started running, and I found out later that a portion of 2 WTC was falling straight down toward us. All the debris from that part of the tower as it fell pushed a huge cloud of debris toward us. In that split second, I thought, “Will, what did you get yourself into?” At the same time that thought hit me, I spotted Dominick Pezzulo and remembered the last thing we’d said to each other in the breakroom, “We’re not going to get separated and leave each other.” So, I started running after Dominick, and then the world caved in where we were.