The two males set out on their very own search-and-rescue mission, strolling on high of the treacherous rubble and calling out.
Below the floor, round 8 p.m., Jimeno heard their name: “United States Marine Corps, can anybody hear us?”
“I couldn’t believe it,” Jimeno recollects. “I started yelling as loud as I could. ‘PAPD Officers down! PAPD officers down!’ And they kept saying, ‘Keep yelling, we hear you!’” The Marines maneuvered towards the sound of Jimeno’s voice and at last appeared, far above, at a gap within the particles. “They said, ‘Who’s down there?’ I said, ‘Port Authority Police, Officer Jimeno, my Sergeant’s down. We have men down here. We have men who have died,’ and they said, ‘Hold on, buddy,’” Jimeno recollects.
The Marines started to attempt to find Jimeno within the particles under with a flashlight; all he may do was wave his left hand to draw their consideration, however his hand was simply as caked in concrete mud because the particles and onerous to differentiate from the rubble itself. It took some 5 minutes for them to search out him. Above, the Marines shouted for others to assist.
Two officers arrived from the NYPD’s Emergency Services Unit Truck One, Scott Strauss and Paddy McGee, each a part of the division’s elite rescue and SWAT-style group. “We started running over in that direction,” Strauss recalled later. “We’re climbing over this twisted steel — some were very, very hot — jumping from one to the other. We’re slipping on the dust. It was a very treacherous trek. Through the dust and through the smoke, I saw a guy waving a flashlight, I went over to him. I said, ‘What do you got?’ He goes, ‘You got two guys, two cops down in this hole.’ So I look, and there’s this hole a little bit bigger than the size of a manhole. I dropped down into it, about six to eight feet. It was like a very, very tiny closet.”
Strauss, McGee, and a civilian paramedic, Chuck Sereika, started an arduous, hours-long effort to free Jimeno. They stripped off their very own rescue gear, and the officers took off their gun belts, shedding something they might to make it attainable to shimmy deeper into the rubble. “I’m crawling down into this hole. Paddy’s behind me, and we’re going around beams that are hot — fire is coming up from the other side — it’s smoke-filled. We’re coughing. We’re choking,” Strauss recollects.
“I’m saying to myself, to my kids, ‘I love you. I’m sorry I’m doing this, because I’m going to die,’” he recollects. “The worst — probably the worst thing I’ve had to do in my life. I told [my wife] Pat I loved her and I got down in through this hole — I didn’t call anybody on the cell phone, I just said this to myself.”
Finally, after crawling about 20 to 30 ft down, they stumbled on Pezzullo’s physique and, additional away, Jimeno. “The only thing we can see of Will is his head, his right arm and part of his right side,” Strauss recalled. “The rest of it — it looks like he was poured out of a dump truck. He’s just laying there, and he’s on his side. He can move his head a little bit and he can move his right hand.”
Only one particular person may match by way of the opening at a time — an area Strauss described as “no bigger than the area underneath a chair.” Strauss provided Jimeno some water, and ultimately Sereika attached an IV to the injured officer. And then they set to work. Strauss beginning scratching on the rubble. Little by little, they chipped away on the enveloping concrete; it was exhausting work and each 15 to twenty minutes, Strauss and Sereika would commerce locations. As they chipped away, they’d go the damaged concrete to McGee, who would throw it additional down into the burning fires and pile of particles beneath them.
The state of affairs was grave. “It appears. At first, they had been puzzled as Jimeno saved asking them to save lots of his companion — Strauss and his colleagues may see Pezzulo’s physique close by and fearful that Jimeno, in shock, didn’t understand the officer was lifeless. Only mid-way by way of the rescue did they hear one other voice from the rubble.
“We’re scratching away, scratching away, and then we hear Sergeant McLoughlin’s voice, and he goes, ‘Hey, how are you guys doing?’ I’m like, ‘Who’s that?’ Will’s like, ‘That’s my partner,’ like, You idiots. What do you think I’ve been talking about? So we’re like, ‘We thought he was your partner.’ He said, ‘No, that’s Dominick. He’s dead.’ I’m like, Oh, my God! Now we have another rescue that we have to do.”
For three hours, they labored to free Jimeno, refusing a number of orders from different rescuers to evacuate the location as a result of the particles was too harmful and unstable. “For the next three hours they worked on me,” Jimeno recollects. “It was very, very painful — they were able to free my right leg, and then it took a long time for them to try to get me from under this wall. They had to cut away my Scott Airpack. It was just a nightmare that night.”
At one level, they thought-about amputating Jimeno’s leg, however that they had solely a knife, and as a substitute saved digging. The area was so tight that Jimeno by no means even noticed Strauss’s face — he spent the whole rescue solely in a position to glimpse the officer’s bald head simply inches from his personal.
“Will’s screaming in pain and Sergeant McLoughlin’s is fading in and out this whole time,” Strauss recalled. “We’re talking to McLoughlin and Paddy McGee — can’t get any more Irish than him, he was born on St. Patrick’s Day, he’s in the police department pipe band — and John McLoughlin, another Irishman, and Paddy’s like, ‘Hey, Irish eyes, are you still with us?’ Sometimes he would answer, sometimes he wouldn’t. When he didn’t answer, Will would get worked up. ‘John — Sarge, come on, Sarge, hold on, Sarge!’ Then you’d hear him in a groggy voice say, ‘I’m here. I’m here.’”
Finally, Jimeno was freed round 11 p.m., hoisted in a rescue basket as much as the floor, the place he confronted the unimaginable devastation overhead. “As they started pulling me out the gurney, up this hole, I remember looking around, and I said, ‘Where is everything?’ Because I could see the moon, and I could see smoke, but I couldn’t see the buildings. That’s when a firefighter said, ‘It’s all gone, kid.’ That’s the first time I cried that evening.”
It took eight extra hours to achieve McLoughlin, who lastly was freed round 7 a.m. the next morning.
That night time, medics took Jimeno to New York’s Bellevue Hospital; the ambulance driver, too, had arrived from upstate and wanted instructions to search out his manner. There, Jimeno confronted the vacancy of the emergency room: “I remember as we got to the hospital, I’m thinking there’s going to be thousands of people in there. That’s the second time I cried. As they pulled me off the ambulance, I see these doctors standing around and nurses. I said, ‘Where is everybody?’ They’re like, ‘You’re it.’ They’re telling me there’s nobody else.”
This is the place most tellings of Will Jimeno’s story finish: the miraculous rescue, a few of the final — and solely — folks pulled from the burning rubble of Ground Zero. The triumph of the hero rescued by different heroes on America’s darkest day.
But what most impresses me about PAPD Officer Will Jimeno is what comes subsequent.
Chapter IV: The Reckoning