9/11 Survivor: No Lack of Heroes in Chester
Will Jimeno, the former Port Authority police officer and Chester resident who survived the collapse of the Twin Towers, sees heroes everywhere in his hometown.
Editor's Note: This is the third in a three-part series on former Port Authority Officer Will Jimeno's experience leading up to 9/11, his 13 hours trapped in the rubble of the towers and his life more than a decade later.
Will Jimeno has worked hard to move past the 13 hours he spent trapped in the rubble of the Twin Towers after their collapse on 9/11. Physically and mentally it was a hard fought battle, and now he does what he can to make the most of the life he has left.
“I work hard at being a good dad, a good husband and a role model. When I speak to the kids in the community, they make me feel like I am in uniform again,” Jimeno said. “And I am lucky to be able to talk to these kids about faith, hope and love.”
Since the attack 11 years ago, Jimeno has been able to put some distance from the event. Physically by relocation his family to Chester from Clifton, and emotionally to a certain extent as well.
“I look at the World Trade Center like a World War Two vet looks at Pearl Harbor,” Jimeno said. “The common factor his when we were attacked instead of running away from dear, we ran towards it.”
For Jimeno, being part of the Chester community has been an important part of his post-9/11 life.
“I can’t explain how welcoming Chester was to me and my family. From the people in my neighborhood to my church, St. Lawrence, to the police department in the borough and the township,” Jimeno said. “I feel there are so many heroes here in Chester. The volunteer firefighters who put their lives on the line with no pay, the teachers, council members who give their time.”
In his mind, Jimeno would be hard pressed to find another community like Chester, where the American flag flies everywhere you look.
“I tell me kids you’ll always remember growing up in an all American town which to me is the heartland of American and that is what Chester is,” Jimeno said. “I can’t say enough about Chester.”
Now, Jimeno takes as much time as he can to speak to kids about the lessons learned from 9/11.
“Here we are 11 years later and it is incredible. 9/11 is so far from the new generation of kids. They need to know how important that these freedoms shouldn’t be sacrificed,” Jimeno said. “I tell the kids if you live to be 90 and multiply that by 365 days, that’s not a lot of days. Make your time here special.”
Having met celebrities, when Oliver Stone was making Jimeno’s story into the movie World Trade Center, Jimeno says it reinforced that it wasn’t money or fame or materialistic things that matter, it was making a difference in someone’s life. And that is something he tries to get across when he speaks to children.
“People sling around the word heroes, especially when it related to athletes or actors and that’s fine. But I remind kids that heroes are their coaches and their teachers who gave them advice when they needed it. Their real heroes are their parents,” Jimeno said. “The real hero is your friend who stands up for you when you are being picked on.”
And with a pedigree like Jimeno’s the message carries weight.
“People tell me I spoke to their kids and they really got my message. That is the best feeling in the world to me. I tell those kids they are heroes when they do the right thing,” Jimeno said. “And there is no lack of heroes in Chester.”