Sgt. Jason Thomas had been out of the Marine Corps for about a year, when he was dropping his daughter off at his mother's Long Island home on the morning of September 11th when she told him planes had struck the Twin Towers. He retrieved his Marine uniform, sped to Manhattan and parked his car when one of the towers collapsed. Thomas headed directly into the fallen rubble and cloud of ash.
"Someone needed help. It didn't matter who," he said. "I didn't even have a plan. But I have all this training as a Marine, and all I could think was, 'My city is in need."
Thomas ran into another former Marine, Staff Sgt. David Karnes (who was also wearing his uniform), and together the pair searched for survivors. Carrying little more than flashlights and an infantryman's shovel, they climbed the mountain of debris, skirting dangerous crevasses and shards of red-hot metal, calling out "Is anyone down there? United States Marines!"
It was dark before they heard a response from two fallen police officers who were pinned under the debris. The two Marines crawled into a deep pit to find McLoughlin and Jimeno, injured but alive.
Sgt. Thomas returned to Ground Zero every day for another 2 1/2 weeks to help in any way he could. His identity remained a mystery until Oliver Stone’s 2006 film “World Trade Center” chronicled the rescue of the officers, and Thomas stepped forward.
After 9 days of helping at Ground Zero, Sgt. David Karnes returned to Connecticut and re-enlisted. Later he served two tours of duty in Iraq.
The efforts of both men have remained inspiring for many Americans who survived the September 11 attacks. For their selflessness and bravery, we remember their actions. Stay Zero.