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First Responder Rescued From WTC Rubble to Be Honored at Clovis 9/11 Events

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Will Jimeno survived being entombed for 13 hours under the World Trade Center rubble on Sept. 11. 2001. (GV Wire Composite/David Rodriguez)
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A retired New Jersey police detective whose heroics and miraculous rescue were portrayed in the Oliver Stone film “World Trade Center” is the honored guest and featured speaker at the California 9/11 Memorial ceremonies on Monday in Clovis.

Will Jimeno survived despite being buried for 13 hours under the WTC rubble.  He will be presented with an American flag during a morning ceremony scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m.

Jimeno also will speak at 6 o’clock Monday night at the Clovis Veterans Memorial Auditorium.

Jimeno, a rookie cop assigned to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, saw the shadow of the airplane that seconds later hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. He rode to the WTC site with 20 other Port Authority police officers, including Sgt. John McLoughlin, in a commandeered bus.

Jimeno and three other Port Authority officers, who were led by McLoughlin, rushed into the World Trade Center to conduct rescue operations when both towers collapsed upon them. Only Jimeno and McLoughlin survived.

A Look Back at the Miracle Rescue

They were rescued after hours of exhaustive and dangerous efforts by first responders. Both men were severely injured and required months of hospitalization.

A third officer, Dominick Pezzulo, survived the initial collapse but was killed by the collapse of the North Tower while trying to free the entombed Jimeno.

This is from a USA Today account of the rescue published a year later under the headline “Miracles Emerge From Debris”:

“Sometimes they yelled for help. But mostly the 48-year-old sergeant, a 21-year veteran, and the 33-year-old rookie talked intimately, sometimes revealing personal things – about kids, families, feelings – that they had never shared with anyone. Jimeno asked the Sergeant to deliver a message over the radio to his wife, Allison, who was seven months pregnant. They had received no response earlier, but he thought maybe their radio call would be picked up on a police tape recording. “Attention,” Sgt. McLoughlin announced, “Officer Jimeno requests that his baby girl be named Olivia.” His wife had liked the name. He hadn’t been so sure. Now, as he prepared to die, he wanted to think of his baby girl, Olivia.”

A total of 37 Port Authority police officers were lost that day in the deadliest law enforcement event in U.S. history.

Jimeno often quotes the words of Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Actor Michael Peña portrayed Jimeno in the movie.

Author of Two 9/11 Books

Born in 1967 in Colombia, Jimeno immigrated to New York City as a boy with his family.

Since the terrorist attacks, he has written two books. “Immigrant, American, Survivor; A Little Boy Who Grew Up To Be All Three” is a children’s book. It pays tribute to the many WTC heroes for a new audience of young readers who may not be familiar with 9/11, while also telling youth to never give up — no matter what challenges are thrown their way.

Jimeno’s second book, “Sunrise Through the Darkness; A Survivor’s Account of Learning to Live Again Beyond 9/11,” is a message for anyone who has suffered trauma or loves someone who has.

New at the Memorial

A recent expansion includes a Flight 93 tribute and a sapling from the original Survivor Tree, gifted from the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York.

The memorial is at 3485 Never Forget Lane in Clovis off Peach Avenue between Dakota and Ashlan avenues.

Locator Map

(California 9/11 Memorial)

Duncan Poly Event

Duncan Polytechnical High School, 4330 E. Garland Ave. in Fresno, will hold a short ceremony starting at 8:10 a.m. Monday commemorating the anniversary of 9/11. The event will honor those who lost their lives and pay tribute to local veterans, police officers, and firefighters.

The ceremony will feature the Duncan Air Force Junior ROTC color guard and cadets, and leadership students with American flags.

“Especially as the years go by since the horrific events of 9/11, I appreciate Duncan’s annual ceremony to remind us of the sacrifices made that day and to honor our veterans and everyday heroes,” said Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson.

Thank You to First Responders

First responders will receive coffee and doughnuts as a thank you from Clovis West students by the school sign at the corner of Millbrook and Teague avenues beginning at 7:45 a.m. and ending at 9:30 a.m.

Flyers have been handed out inviting staff from local fire and law enforcement stations and hospitals to the event. Students will also place flags on the campus for the number of lives lost during the 9/11 attacks.

Remembrance Day

The community and Buchanan High School families are invited to a ceremony honoring Buchanan’s eight soldiers who lost their lives in conflicts following 9/11, as well as those who lost their lives on 9/11. The event begins at at 8 a.m. Monday in the school’s Memorial Garden at the corner of Teague and Minnewawa avenues in Clovis.

Remembering Firefighters

Fresno City College will commemorate the 22nd anniversary of 9/11 with a ceremony in front of the Veterans Peace Memorial near the corner of Weldon and College avenues. The ceremony will begin at 9 a.m.

Peter Cacossa, director of the college’s Fire Academy, will emcee the event. The keynote address will be given by Chief Master Sgt. Joseph Gallegos, Fire Chief of the 144th Fighter Wing, California Air National Guard.

The ceremony will include the traditional ringing of the bell for fallen firefighters. While most deaths on 9/11 were civilians, 343 firefighters from the New York City Fire Department lost their lives on that day. The ringing of the bell tradition is a solemn tribute to fallen firefighters.

The ceremony will include retired biology instructor Scott Porteous playing the bagpipes, the laying of a memorial wreath, and the playing of taps.

Spirit of 9/12 Awards

The Fresno County Superintendent of Schools is hosting its annual Spirit of 9/12 Student Awards Ceremony at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Clovis Veterans Memorial Auditorium. Jimeno will speak at this event as well.

The event will conclude with the announcement of the best of show awards in art and poetry. The winners and their teachers will receive a paid trip to New York City to visit the National 9/11 Memorial.

Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email