September 11th: The Port Authority Police Department Story
"They'll find us, Sarge"
Pezzulo finally started to respond. He told his friend that he loved him, and Jimeno returned the sentiment. They talked quietly for a while.
"Willy," Pezzulo said, "don't forget I died trying to save you guys."
Jimeno assured him that he would never forget. Pezzulo then lifted his arm straight up. He was holding his service revolver. He fired a shot toward the light to alert rescuers to their whereabouts. But as soon as the shot went off, his arm went limp, and his head rolled to the side. Jimeno could see that his friend was dead.
Jimeno thought about Pezzulo's wife and two children. He also thought about his own wife and daughter and the child on the way. He prayed to God that he would live to see his second child.
All the while Jimeno had been talking to Sergeant McLoughlin, too, urging him to stay awake even though he couldn't see him. At times Jimeno had to disregard McLoughlin's rank and "get nasty" with him to keep him going. He urged McLoughlin to use his radio if he could to call for help, but the radio was dead.
Jimeno forced himself to stay optimistic. "They'll find us, sarge," he said. "Don't worry. They'll get to us."
But McLoughlin knew better. He reminded Jimeno that the site was unstable and the light was fading. Rescue teams wouldn't be sent out until first light the next morning at the earliest. Between their injuries and the fires burning around them, they knew they might not last that long.
McLoughlin's assumption was correct. The area had been cleared because 7 World Trade Center, a building adjacent to the site, was in flames and in danger of falling.
But Jimeno was not going to sit by and wait. He had to do something to help himself. He reached to his belt and managed to free his handcuffs. They were a cheap $20 pair that he had bought years ago when he had worked store security at Toys 'R' Us. It was the only tool he had, but he would use it as best he could to dig himself out. He chipped away at the rubble hemming him in, running on pure adrenaline. He had no sense of time passing, and eventually exhaustion took him by surprise. He wasn't sure if he passed out or just fell asleep.
When he woke up, he was groggy. The light from above was gone. He felt around for his handcuffs. They weren't on his chest, and they weren't by his side. He felt everywhere he could reach, panicked that he'd lost them. He kept thinking that those cuffs were his only chance of getting out, and he ran his fingers over the same crevices again and again. But the cuffs were gone. They must have slipped through a gap in the debris and fallen out of reach.