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.
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 in 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 the 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. As I wondered why a piece of the plane was there. Sgt. McLoughlin said, “Okay, guys, grab one of these mail carts, and 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.
Once 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.
What Happened Next at the World Trade Center on 9/11:
When our team of five Port Authority officers reached the lobby of 2 WTC, Sgt. McLoughlin, who was our leader, told me, “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 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 fell 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.
I instantly felt a pain in my back, grabbed a radio and started screaming, “813 – Jimeno and team down. We’re getting bombarded with concrete.” Then something hit my hand and knocked the radio out of it. I grabbed my helmet to protect my head, but a sudden force so strong that it broke my chin strap blew the helmet off my head. Then everything seemed to stop. There was dead silence. I was in a dark place. I saw a little bit of light through a lot of dust.
To learn more about facing difficulties, go to John E. Phillips’ book, “Moving Forward: Stories of Hometown Heroes,” available in Kindle version at http://amzn.to/TmTDpb. To see all of John’s hunting books, available in Kindle, print and Audible, go to http://amzn.to/XW2URC
Tomorrow: When there was Total Chaos on 9/11 with Bowhunter Will Jimeno