9/11 Hero: ‘Nation Stronger Than Ever’

By Russ Crespolini Chatham Patch

Ex-Port Authority Officer Will Jimeno says first responders and survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings are ‘beacons of light.’

Will Jimeno knows more about pain, loss and suffering at the hands of terrorism than most. The former Port Authority Police Officer and Chester resident spent 13 hours trapped in the rubble of the Twin Towers on 9/11 and still bears the physical and mental scars of his ordeal. The tragedy at the Boston Marathon Monday stirred up many of those old feelings.

“It brought out a lot of my emotions,” Jimeno said. “I am mad and sad. Mad because we couldn’t prevent it and sad because of the people who were hurt and lost their lives.”

Jimeno whose story was told in Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center — had a planned appearance Tuesday at the Black River Middle School in Chester to talk to students about his experience at the World Trade Center, but that quickly morphed into a larger talk that incorporated the bombing in Boston.

“Speaking to the children today was a positive. I spoke to the kids about faith, love and hope,” Jimeno said. “All of the kids had seen the coverage, and they saw all of the people who ran to help. I asked them if they knew how brave that was, because those responding didn’t know what the situation was. They put their lives on the line to go help.”

Jimeno said he told the children that although the scope of the 9/11 attacks and the Boston bombing were different, the effect was the same.

“Ours might have been a larger scale event, but it is essentially the same,” Jimeno said. “We cannot live in fear. And whether this was done by foreign terrorists or domestic we cannot let it deter us from living our lives.”

Jimeno said he was heartened by the “great sense of courage” he felt from the kids, and that was the kind of innate courage he saw on 9/11 and in the people of Boston.

“All that evil needs to triumph is for good people to do nothing,” Jimeno said. “And I saw so many people who were rushed to the hospital because people were there to aid quickly. I am very proud of my brothers and sisters in uniform and in blue. That is what makes us strong, and the terrorists don’t get that. We, as a nation, are stronger than ever.”

Jimeno, who underwent several surgeries and faced life-altering injuries after being extricated from the rubble of the Twin Towers, said that despite the long road ahead those who were injured will recover.

“As a 9/11 survivor and a first responder I want everyone to know who was injured you will recover, and you will find happiness like I did. You will get past this,” Jimeno said. “There is going to be pain and suffering but we have to move forward and honor what we lost by living our lives to our fullest.”

According to Jimeno, what stays with him is not the sense of loss and pain, but the hope and faith and love he experienced.

“I am so proud of the first responders and the other bystanders who came together in the midst of evil,” Jimeno said. “When we say ‘Never Forget’ we don’t just mean 9/11.”

For his part, Jimeno believes that those who are suffering now will become a force for healing and restoration going forward.

“I hope through my experience those hurting now know they will be OK. Over time they are going to get back on their feet, and they will become a shining beacon,” Jimeno said. “We cannot fight our way out of the darkness without light. And those who have been injured, those who have lost loved ones will be our light.”

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