Will Jimeno - Surviving 9/11 and Mossy Oak All the Way
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.
I became a Mossy Oak Pro Staffer after 9/11. In 2006, Oliver Stone made a movie, “The World Trade Center” and in the movie, Nicholas Cage played Sgt. John McLoughlin and Michael Pena played me. Sgt. McLoughlin and I were advisors for the movie. In the movie, some of the policemen and firefighters were actual policemen and firefighters who worked tirelessly to rescue us. To make the movie as accurate as possible, Sgt. McLoughlin and I told our side of the story, and the rescuers told the story from their point of view. We couldn’t tell anyone what the rescuers saw or felt during the time we were in the hole, so, Scott Strauss, Paddy McGee and some of the other rescuers were brought in to tell their side of the story. Although the movie came out in 2006, it’s still being used today as a teaching aid for police departments and being shown to school children. We’re proud that the movie about our tragedy is hopefully still helping people.
During my recovery after 9/11, I went from a wheelchair to a walker to Canadian crutches and then to a cane. I still have to use a brace to walk, and I have a dropped foot. But as I look back over our ordeal, I feel fortunate. I still can enjoy bowhunting, and I got to see my second daughter, Olivia, born. A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to speak to the wife of the head of the FDNYC (Fire Department of New York City), whose husband had died at the Twin Towers. She said, “I heard you had a little girl.” I answered “Yes, ma’am.” “You need to understand that the middle of your daughter Olivia’s name spells Lives.” I’m still living with survivor’s guilt as best I can. I’ve learned that life is short. You start off as a baby in diapers, and if you live long enough, you’ll be an older person in diapers.
I started back bowhunting - my favorite pastime - on November 11, 2002, a year after 9/11 when I was buried alive. I had looked in a magazine and saw there was a place in Maryland called Cherry Blossom Farm. I reached out to the owner, Joe Taylor, who was a really-nice guy. I told him my story, and he invited me to come down and hunt with him. I told him the only way I could hunt would be off a ladder stand. Joe told me not to worry that he’d have me a ladder stand. On the last night of the hunt, I missed a nice buck, a big 8-pointer. My arrow flew over his back. As I left, I told Joe thank you, because he’d helped prove to me that I still could hunt.
Today I hunt out of ground blinds a lot, but I hunt from a tree stand sometimes. I shoot a PSE Hammer. Jacopo Re, who worked for Mossy Oak for some years, asked me to be on Mossy Oak Pro Staff. I told him I couldn’t stand for a long period of time and couldn’t go to and participate in the events the pro staffers needed to do. I kept telling him, “Jacopo, I’m a member of the Mossy Oak family.” Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland and Toxey Haas both called me after 9/11. I got so emotional when Toxey called that I had to hand the phone to my wife to talk until I could get myself together. When I started talking to Toxey, he asked, “Why are you crying?” I answered, “You’re someone I’ve watched on television for many years and the head of Mossy Oak. I know you’re a busy man. I can’t believe you gave up some of your time to talk to me.” Toxey told me, “Well, don’t be upset. I’m just a redneck from Mississippi.” I said, “No, you’re an American, you’re my brother, and you’re taking the time to call me. That really means so much to me. I can’t believe that you would call.”
Finally, I told Jacopo that I’d be a Mossy Oak Pro Staffer. In the movie, “World Trade Center,” you’ll see me leaving my home wearing a Mossy Oak shirt, and at the very end of the movie, you’ll see me in a Mossy Oak jacket. Too, in the movie you’ll see my Will Jimeno character, played by the actor Michael Pena, wearing a Mossy Oak shirt. As I got better, I started going to more shows for Mossy Oak to show people what we do as hunters in a very positive light. Any time you see me in camo, I will be in Mossy Oak, because I believe in the pattern, and more importantly I believe in the people at Mossy Oak.