The Marine who found two WTC survivors.

June 1996 - June 2006.
June 21 2006 7:07 AM

An Unlikely Hero

The Marine who found two WTC survivors.

Slate turns 10 this week, and we're publishing The Best of Slate: A Tenth Anniversary Anthology. In celebration of the book and the anniversary, we're publishing (or, rather, re-publishing) a selection of pieces from the anthology, including this article. This article was originally published Sept. 10, 2002. You can see a list of all the republished pieces, as well as everything else we are publishing in honor of the anniversary, here.

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"Be quiet," he told Thomas, "I think I can hear something."

He yelled again. "We can hear you. Yell louder." He heard a faint muffled sound in the distance.

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"Keep yelling. We can hear you." Karnes and Thomas zeroed in on the sound.

"We're over here," they heard.

Two Port Authority police officers, Will Jimeno and Sgt. John McLoughlin, were buried in the center of the World Trade Center ruins, 20 feet below the surface. They could be heard but not seen. By jumping into a larger opening, Karnes could hear Jimeno better. But he still couldn't see him. Karnes sent Thomas to look for help. Then he used his cell phone to call his wife, Rosemary, in Stamford and his sister Joy in Pittsburgh. (He thought they could work the phones and get through to New York police headquarters.)

"Don't leave us," Officer Jimeno pleaded. He later said he feared Karnes' voice would trail away, as had that of another potential rescuer hours earlier. It was now about 7 p.m. and Jimeno and McLoughlin had been trapped for roughly nine hours. Karnes stayed with them, talking to them until help arrived, in the form of Chuck Sereika, a former paramedic with an expired license who put pulled his old uniform out of his closet and came to the site. Ten minutes later, Scott Strauss and Paddy McGee, officers with the elite Emergency Service Unit of the NYPD, also arrived.

The story of how Strauss and Sereika spent three hours digging Jimeno out of the debris, which constantly threatened to collapse, has been well told in the New York Times and elsewhere. At one point, all they had with which to dig out Jimeno were a pair of handcuffs. Karnes stood by, helping pass tools to Strauss, offering his Marine K-Bar knife when it looked as if they might have to amputate Jimeno's leg to free him. (After Jimeno was finally pulled out, another team of cops worked for six more hours to free McLoughlin, who was buried deeper in the pile.)

Karnes left the site that night when Jimeno was rescued and went with him to the hospital. While doctors treated the injured cop, Karnes grabbed a few hours sleep on an empty bed in the hospital psychiatric ward. While he slept, the hospital cleaned and pressed his uniform.

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Today, on the anniversary of the attack and the rescue, officers Jimeno and Strauss will be part of the formal "Top Cop" ceremony at the New York City Center Theater. Earlier the two appeared on a nationally televised episode of America's Most Wanted. Jimeno and McLoughlin appeared this week on the Today show. They are heroes.

Today, Dave Karnes will be speaking at the Maranatha Bible Baptist Church in Wilkinsburg, Penn., near where he grew up. He sounds excited, over the phone, talking about the upcoming ceremony. Karnes is a hero, too.

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