September 11th: The Port Authority Police Department Story
The heat was stifling under the pile, and Will Jimeno was drifting in and out of consciousness, struggling to stay awake. He thought less about his injuries than about his family and the unborn child he and his wife had already named Olivia. If only he hadn't lost his handcuffs, he thought, he might have been able to do something to help himself. But at this point all he could do was wait and hope and try to buoy John McLoughlin's spirits as much as McLoughlin was trying to buoy his.
McLoughlin remained practical. He knew how rescue operations were typically conducted, and he wasn't about to offer Jimeno any unreasonable hopes. The reality of the situation was that they had to hang on until rescuers found them, however long it took. Jimeno knew the sergeant was right, but the darting flames that he saw from time to time out of the corner of his eye weren't encouraging.
"Sarge," he called out. He was breathing hard, afraid that they were going to be burned alive. Sweat poured down his face. "Sarge, I don't know how long I can hold out—"
The sound of exploding gunshots interrupted him. They were close by, and Jimeno quickly shielded his face. He couldn't figure out where the shots were coming from. Was someone trying to get his attention? Or was someone actually shooting at him?
McLoughlin shouted to him, demanding to know what was going on over there.
Several shots had gone off at irregular intervals. Then suddenly they stopped. Jimeno wiped the grimy sweat out of his eyes, not sure if it was really over. He looked over at Dominick Pezzulo's body and realized what had happened. The rising temperature had set off the bullets in Pezzulo's belt.
Jimeno squeezed his eyes shut and tried to control his ragged breathing.
"Will!" McLoughlin shouted to him.
"I'm okay, I'm okay," Jimeno shouted back. He explained the source of the gunshots.
Jimeno closed his eyes again. If this wasn't hell...
The two men continued to talk, measuring the silence between their conversations, keeping tabs on one another, each making sure the other was still holding on.
In one of the lulls, Jimeno thought he heard something. He listened intently, not sure if he had imagined it. Then he heard it again, clearer this time.
"Hello!" a voice called out from above. It was faint, but it was there.
"Hello!" Jimeno shouted back as loud as he could. "Hello! PAPD Officers down! PAPD officers down!"
He yelled for his life, yelled so loud he couldn't hear if Sergeant McLoughlin had joined in or not.
Finally he stopped and listened for a reply, but there was nothing. That one word from above echoed in his memory, but it was soon displaced by a real sound, the crackle of the embers burning all around him.