Sept. 11, 2001, started out as a normal day for Will Jimeno, a Port Authority police officer from Clifton, New Jersey. But soon after he started his shift, Jimeno found himself pinned under the rubble of steel, glass and concrete when the Twin Towers fell on him and his fellow officers.
Jimeno, a Navy veteran, spoke of his experiences during an event Thursday evening at the Northport American Legion Post 694 to honor Memorial Day. Two other veterans and the father of a service member slain during one of the wars launched after the terrorist attacks also spoke at the event.
Up to 100 people — students, veterans and areas residents — crowded into the hall to hear harrowing tales of heroism and sacrifice.
The event was sponsored by Northport High School's Project V.E.T.S., which stands for Veterans Enlisting Teachers and Students.
Jimeno recalled that, throughout his ordeal of the wall falling and a blast of debris that struck him and four other officers, he found the faith that would pull him through.
He was rescued by some of the thousands of first responders who dug through the pile of rubble for signs of life in the aftermath of the attacks. His story and that of his four fellow officers, some of whom died that day, was the central plot of Oliver Stone’s movie, "World Trade Center."
“I realized that if I had given up, I would have given up on my sergeant," Jimeno said. "I would have given up on my country, my family and, most of all, I would have given up on myself.”
Jimeno joined Lt. William Ide, a Navy medical officer who fought in Afghanistan, Lt.Trevor Campbell, a soldier deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq and former Northport Village Police Chief Ric Bruckenthal, whose son, Nate, was killed in Iraq.
"If I am called to do so, I would go again," Ide said, adding that he was drawn into service because he didn't want to see his countrymen dying in wars without trying to use his medical expertise to help them. Ide said he asked to be deployed with a Marine unit in Afghanistan.
Campbell said he was also prompted to join the military by the terrorist attacks of 9/11, though he said he first finished college and then enlisted.
"I didn't want to to sit back and 20 years later say, 'I should have done that. I should have served my country'… I wanted to do my part."
Northport High School teacher Darryl St. George, the master of ceremonies for the event, was in the same unit with Ide.
“Firemen, police and military — all lives lost in the service of a higher cause,” St. George said. “Sacrifices made in a courageous response to the terrible evil we witnessed on that day in September. This evening allows us to be in the presence of four incredible individuals who have all played an instrumental role in this still unfolding epic chapter of our nation’s history.”