September 11th: The Port Authority Police Department Story
Will Jimeno was losing track of time. The "hello" he'd heard now seemed like an illusion, like seeing a watering hole in a desert. He lay on his back, his leg pinned, sweat tracks lining his dirty face. He called to Sergeant McLoughlin whenever he thought of it, determined to keep them both alive, but the dreadful possibility that rescuers might never come lurked at the edges of his consciousness. Still, he refused to let those thoughts take center stage. If he was going to survive, he could only think positive.
Jimeno's eyes shot open. It was a voice coming from above.
"Hello," the voice repeated. "Can anybody hear me?"
"Yes!" Jimeno shouted. "Yes! PAPD officers down! Two of us! This is Officer Will Jimeno and Sergeant John McLoughlin is with me. He has four kids. I have a daughter and my wife is pregnant. Please don't leave. Please!"
"We're not leaving you," the man's voice assured him. "This is Marine Corps Staff Sergeant David Karnes and Sergeant Thomas is with me." Karnes promised Jimeno that they would get them out.
Sergeant Karnes was an accountant with Deloitte & Touche in Wilton, Connecticut. As soon as he heard about the attacks on the World Trade Center, he rushed home to change into his Marine Corps camouflage uniform and immediately left for Manhattan, stopping only for a brief prayer. When he arrived at the scene, he was held back from the pile because 7 World Trade Center was in danger of falling, but as soon as the rescue efforts got under way, he paired up with Sergeant Thomas and got to work.
Karnes crawled down into the rubble to get to Jimeno. The space where Jimeno was trapped was so tight Karnes had to remove his utility belt to squeeze through. He told Jimeno that he would call for help, then got on his cellphone. Phone lines in Manhattan were jammed, and he couldn't get through to anyone in the area, so he called his sister in Pittsburgh and asked her to try to get through. She called her local police department and explained the emergency, and miraculously they were able to get through to officials in Manhattan. Help was on the way.
Two emergency services officers, Paddy McGee and Scott Strauss, and a paramedic named Chuck Sereika wedged into the pit with Sergeant Karnes while firefighter Tom Asher held off the flames as best he could. Water hoses were being sliced by the sharp debris on the pile, so Asher had to use carbon dioxide cans to extinguish the fires in the pit. The space was so tight where Jimeno was caught, Karnes couldn't even use his small folding shovel to try to free him, and Officer Strauss literally had to sit on top of Jimeno to check his vitals. Strauss found Jimeno's handcuffs. They had slipped under him.
In the meantime Karnes worked to open up the passageway. He passed a hand-held air chisel, a jaws-of-life tool, and a pair of shears to Strauss. More cops and firefighters rushed to the area to do whatever needed to be done. One PAPD officer clambered over the rubble with surgical tools and IV bottles. Initially they all thought Jimeno's leg would have to be amputated to free him.
Police and firemen clustered around the mouth of the pit, anxiously waiting for word on Jimeno's condition. Finally, at 11 p.m., the rescuers in the pit sent up a message: Jimeno was free, and his leg was intact. He was in tremendous pain, but he was alive. Officer Jimeno was eased out of the pit and put in a Stokes basket. His fellow officers carried him off the pile, passing him hand-over-hand to safety. He had been trapped for 13 hours.
A fresh rescue team was sent in to dig out Sergeant McLoughlin. It would take eight more hours to free him. By dawn the next day he was being rushed to the hospital.
Will Jimeno and John McLoughlin were the last survivors pulled from the wreckage of the World Trade Center.