Editor’s Note: With the beginning of bow season soon starting, we all need to remember what our bowhunting brother went through on September 11, 2001. Many times we walk past giants and never see them. Such is the case with William Jimeno of Chester, New Jersey, one of the last three people 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. According to Will, “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 deer and chasing turkeys. I began 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’m a Mossy Oak Pro.” Jimeno has a story to tell that we all need to hear, remember and then draw courage from what happened.
My mother and father had brought me from Columbia, South America, when I was 2-years old, and we were always told, “Be proud of where you’ve come from, but also realize where you are. We came to this country to live the American dream. So, we fly the American flag, you will learn English – the language of our new country – you will play by the rules of the United States, and you will serve this nation. We can’t go to another country and expect that country to change its rules, laws and regulations to accommodate us. The United States is now our country.”
From a very-young age, my mother repeated those words to me and taught me those lessons. For that reason, when I was old enough, I joined the U.S. Navy and spent 4 years on the “USS Tripoli.” But even before I went in the navy, I wanted to be a cop and serve the people who had allowed me and my family to come to America.
I had fulfilled my dream of being a police officer by becoming a member of the Port Authority Police of New York and New Jersey. The Port Authority owned and operated the World Trade Center in New York City, as well as all the bridges, tunnels, bus terminals and major transportation facilities in the Northeast.
I woke up early on Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001. I had planned to take one of my personal day leaves to bowhunt for deer in a nearby wildlife management area. I’ve been a bowhunter for more than 20 years. I was about to call into the Port Authority and notify them I was taking a personal day and wouldn’t be in to work. But then as I sipped my coffee, I thought to myself, “I really don’t need to take this day.” I decided to get ready and go into work, because I’d need some of my personal leave days when deer went into the rut later in the year.
On 42nd Street and 8th Avenue in New York City (NYC) watching what we call, “The rush,” which was when thousands of people came into the bus terminal in NYC, one of the largest bus terminals in the country. The people were pouring off 42nd Street to reach mid-town NYC. My job was to patrol that area and protect people.
At about 8:45 am, when I was 32 years old on 9/11/2000, I was under a big awning at that intersection when I saw an unusually-large shadow crossing the ground. On the corner, I saw Sgt. Ross and another officer with the Port Authority, Pat McInerney. Sgt. Ross was pointing to this object in the sky that just had flown over us. We didn’t know at that time that the object was the first plane to crash into 1 World Trade Center. We heard an explosion, and instantly all three of us got calls from headquarters for us to report to the police desk inside the bus terminal.
On the way back, I met-up with my buddy Dominick Pezzulo. When we arrived at the police station, our Sgt. McLoughlin had a worried look on his face, and all of the officers were very busy. Dominick and I went to our breakroom where there was a big TV set and saw a picture of 1 WTC with this huge gaping hole in it. Right away I heard Sgt. Ross, who had been outside with us, announce, “That’s a terrorist attack.”
As police officers from the Port Authority, we are trained to do police work and as firefighters, because we’re the first to respond to any incident at the airport that’s close by. We’re also trained to deal with terrorism, since 1993, when the WTC had been attacked. With the bus terminal, the airport and the Twin Towers at the WTC all in close proximity to the Port Authority, we have to be prepared to deal with any type emergency that may occur. We’ve been trained for this at the Port Authority Academy.
As soon as I saw that the WTC had been attacked, I went straight to a pay phone – yes, we had them back in that day – and I called my wife. In the past, we’d had to deal with gangs, shootings, stabbings and all types of violence, so when there was any major incident being reported from the TV news stations out of NYC, I always called my wife Allison to let her know I was okay. I told her we were headed to the WTC to help. Someone had commandeered a bus, and all the officers – about 20 of us – loaded-up on it to go to the WTC. I couldn’t believe how quickly we got close to the WTC. We were about a block away from the WTC facing Vesey Street when we got out of the bus. Sgt. McLoughlin had driven a Suburban ahead of the bus and arrived before we did. As soon as I got off the bus, Sgt. McLoughlin asked for volunteers.
To learn more about facing difficulties, go to John E. Phillips’ book, “Courage: Stories of Hometown Heroes,” available in Kindle version at http://amzn.to/VBrcCM. To see all of John’s hunting books, available in Kindle, print and Audible, go to http://amzn.to/XW2URC
Tomorrow: What Happened First at the WTC on 9/11 with Bowhunter Will Jimeno