By Marion Filler
Seventeen years ago, the terror attacks of 9/11 took 2,996 lives. Will Jimeno was determined not to add his name to that list.
The Port Authority police officer survived 13 hours buried in the rubble of the World Trade Center, yelling to his sergeant, also buried, “we’re going to get out of this hole or die trying– but we’re not going to give up.”
Jimeno recounted his harrowing story Sunday at the chilly, rainswept Morris County September 11th Memorial Park in Parsippany.
A candle lighting ceremony was abandoned because of the downpour, but the name of each Morris County victim was read. Police bagpipers stood in the rain and played Amazing Grace, bugler Michael DelVecchio played taps, and a 21-gun salute was fired.
Bagpipes in the rain: Remembering 9/11, in 2018. Video by Marion Filler for Morristown Green:
After an invocation by Pastor Sidney Williams Jr. of Bethel A.M.E. church in Morristown, Morris Communications Director Larry Ragonese remembered how several thousand gathered on the Morristown Green soon after the attacks to show our unity as a people.
“We come again tonight, 17 years later at this County Memorial in Parsippany, to show that same united resolve,” he said.
Referring to the constant battle between good and evil, Sheriff James Gannon said “good people cannot idly sit by and let evil triumph.”
‘I SAW ARMAGEDDON’
Jimeno, a Chester resident whose story was included in Oliver Stone’s The World Trade Center, described that horrific day as if it were yesterday.
“I was a rookie cop assigned to the bus terminal on 42nd and 8th when the first call came in,” he said.
After a quick call to his wife ,who was seven months pregnant, Jimeno and a bus oad of other Port Authority officers were sent downtown to assist.
“We knew we were always a target-rich environment. We were hit in 1993, and the senior officers always said they would come back for us. It was actually happening that day.
“When I got off that bus, I saw Armageddon.”
A buried cop makes a life-or-death decision; video by Marion Filler for Morristown Green:
Tower One had a gaping hole, and the corner of Tower Two was aflame. Like everyone else, he thought it might be debris from the first hit. And then reality unfolded.
“You know how a rock thrown in water makes a ripple effect? Every time I saw someone jump from one of those buildings, to me it was like that ripple effect. They were someone’s mother, brother, sister, the list goes on,” Jimeno said.
Fearful as his team of four volunteers entered a Tower, he was heartened to see strangers helping each other.
“We are police officers, we have to be three notches above that,” he remembered thinking. They moved deeper into the buildings and were on a mall that connected the two buildings when disaster struck.
Jimeno remembered how his mother, who brought him to America from Colombia as a child, always spoke of faith, hope and love. Those words sustained him when he and his four partners became trapped under a collapsed wall of concrete.
Two of the four teammates died soon after the collapse. In all, 37 Port Authority police officers did not come home that day.
Preparing to die, Jimeno asked God to let him see his child who soon would be born, and then he asked for a glass of water. An ethereal figure emerged from the shadows, surrounded by still water and endless fields of grass, and brought him comfort.
“All of a sudden, all the pain left my body,” he said. Snapping from that vision, he called to his sergeant that they would fight to live. After many hours, they were rescued.
If he had let go, Jimeno said, he would have given up on “my sergeant, who was buried deeper than me, given up on my family because I didn’t fight hard enough to get home, given up on my country, and most of all I would have given up on myself.”
We must never forget that day, Jimeno said.
“It is our obligation to pass down history. I talk about faith, hope, and love because we are Americans and must never give up. 9/11 was the darkest day in U.S. history, but to me it was one of the brightest, because it showed us what we are made of. We are Americans and come from different parts of the world to make this great country.”