February 09, 2022
When a military unit is leaving a target location upon mission completion, the last team member to exit the objective calls out, “Last man!” in order to alert the rest of the team that everyone is accounted for. Jimmy McEniry was the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) last man out of the World Trade Center as the second tower fell on September 11, 2001.
September 11th started like most normal days for McEniry. He was a U.S. Marine Corps reservist and had duty that morning when he got a call telling him that a commercial airplane had hit one of the towers. Hearing the news, he immediately excused himself from reserve duty and made his way back to his NYPD assignment.
McEniry was a member of NYPD’s Emergency Services Unit (ESU), New York’s “SWAT” team, if you will. They go by the title of “Emergency Services” because they handle rescue efforts inside the city. McEniry caught a ride to the towers with a teammate that morning, and both men were extensively trained in the use of ropes and climbing gear necessary for rescue efforts, and they planned and prepared for just such an event. McEniry explained, “Ever since the World Trade Center (WTC) attack in 1993, we rehearsed for a second attack. Our plan was to land on the roof of the WTC and then run rope rescues for those below. We’d haul them up to the roof and then evacuate them off the towers.”
As he and his teammate approached the towers, McEniry remembers the chief of police checking in with the aviation wing trying to discern if anyone was on the roof, and whether or not aviation could land there. “The smoke was thick at the top of the towers, but there was one corner where they could land. However, no one was on the roof. If anyone had been there, we would have committed to a roof rescue.”
Shortly after McEniry and his teammate arrived at the towers, the first structure collapsed. Luckily, the second tower actually shielded their approach and protected the pair from the falling debris of the collapsing first tower. McEniry’s teammate was one of ESU’s leading rope experts, so he grabbed a handful of gear and went into the tower to begin finalizing the plan. McEniry, too, grabbed a load of gear and made his way into the building.
Upon entering the building though, McEniry’s teammate came running out, yelling, “It’s coming down!” Within a few seconds the realization sank in, and McEniry dropped his gear and took off at a run.
“I looked up and saw the building coming down on top of me, so I dumped my stuff and took off. There was a fire truck parked next to the tower that I dove under just as everything hit the ground. It was me and a pretty big firefighter under there, so it got kind of tight. When the debris hit the ground, the blast hit me in the face and temporarily blinded me.”
Half-blind, McEniry began to dig his way out from under the fire truck. “I stood up and remembered that the front of the fire truck was facing the building, so I used it to help guide me toward the building. I couldn’t hardly see at all. About halfway up the fire truck, I ran into a solid wall. It made no sense.”
Debris from the falling tower had completely crushed the front of the fire truck, forming a wall where the truck had once been. Since he could go no further, McEniry turned around and used what was left of the truck to guide him away from the tower. Once he got to the back of the truck, he could see a smudge of light off in the distance. “I walked towards the light.”
He soon linked up with another NYPD officer, and the two made their way back to the tower. They found two more police officers and three civilians clinging to the edge of the Customs House, so they retrieved a ladder from the mangled fire truck and rescued them from the ledge. McEniry then sought medical attention because he still couldn’t see very well.
McEniry was initially reported as a fatality on the NYPD’s personnel roster. His teammate, who had escaped the building seconds before him, had continued to run down the street and, when the tower fell, had been propelled a great distance by the blast. McEniry’s teammate was convinced there was no way he could have survived, and therefore reported him as dead upon checking in with the NYPD operation’s center. Thankfully, NYPD was able to correct that error later in the day. If it hadn’t been for the protection of the fire truck, McEniry would have never made it.
NYPD lost 23 officers on September 11, 2001. Fourteen of those officers, like McEniry, belonged to ESU. The ESU training academy has devoted the back wall of their classroom to every member of ESU to be killed in the line of duty. More than half the pictures on that wall are from September 11.
20 Years Later
“It doesn’t feel like it happened 20 years ago. Every year that goes by, it doesn’t get any easier.” McEniry’s life, and many others, changed significantly that day. Many veterans reading this article will understand the sense of loss the NYPD ESU experienced on September 11th, but few are familiar with so much unexpected loss in a single morning. McEniry recounted talking to his friend, Mike Curtin, that morning about his military identification card and getting it updated to reflect his retired sergeant-major rank. McEniry had just received some help from a corporal in completing the task when he called Curtin and told him he should buy the corporal lunch because her efforts made the correction a relatively painless process. “The first plane hit about five minutes later,” McEniry said.
Curtin and three members of his team from ESU Truck Two died when the towers came down. Curtin’s remains were found nine months later not far from where he was last seen, and the NYPD flew his family in from Long Island on a police helicopter for his evacuation from Ground Zero. Curtin worked at the cleanup of the Oklahoma City bombing and had told McEniry stories of what he saw and experienced there. Curtin said that the entire clean-up site in Oklahoma would get so quiet you could hear a pin drop when they found human remains and removed them from the destruction.
“The same thing happened at the towers. All the cranes stopped, everybody stopped,” McEniry said. “Mike left Ground Zero covered in the USMC and American flags. We all wanted to show our respect.”
The years that followed the September 11th attacks were filled with deployments overseas for McEniry. “I stayed and worked at Ground Zero until we closed it out. I don’t have a lot of memories from that time because it seemed like we never stopped. We had so many funerals but no bodies to bury, and then we still had our regular work to do.” After closing out Ground Zero, McEniry deployed repeatedly as a team leader for Central Command commanding general’s personal security detail (PSD).
“I was an infantryman, but I had a strong law enforcement background, so I kept drawing the PSD thing,” McEniry said. “I deployed in 2003 to 2004, 2004 to 2005, and 2010 to 2011.”
Every year, McEniry and members from his ESU Truck get together on September 11th to remember their friends. “We go to a local bar, have a nice meal and a few drinks, and tell stories about the guys we lost. Our group is about 50 to 60 guys.” This September 11th will be no different, except it marks 20 years since the attack.
McEniry retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in October 2012, and from the NYPD on July 29, 2019. He dedicated many years of his life to serving America, both at home and abroad. We are proud of him and thankful for the opportunity to present him with the pistol seen on these pages. May we never forget.
A tribute from Guns & Ammo and SIG Sauer was presented to Jimmy McEniry. SIG Sauer had initially sent the P320 Fire Control Unit (FCU), the serialized chassis of the pistol, to G&A as a test product to be assembled for review. What makes the P320 FCU special is SIG’s Custom Works program. Any one-of-a-kind pistol can be built from the FCU chassis, eliminating the need to purchase factory configurations and components that are often modified or replaced. The FCU encourages and facilitates the development of mission-specific and personalized end-products from the start.
Fortuitously, Guns & Ammo’s Editor Eric R. Poole noticed the test unit’s serial number: “911”. He determined it would make a fitting gift to honor someone who had served on 9/11. Poole called me for ideas, and I immediately thought McEniry would be an ideal recipient. SIG Sauer, too, enthusiastically supported the plan.
Phil Strader, SIG Sauer’s pistol product manager, quarterbacked the effort and helped to develop the gun’s thematic design. Outlaw Ordnance brought the vision to life. Through the cut-and-colored steel of the P320’s slide, the resulting pistol honors the heroes of the New York Police Department, the New York Fire Department and the New York/New Jersey Port Authority Police with their departmental emblems, as well as the date, and the flight designations of the aircraft used in the attack, all in remembrance of the innocent passengers. Fittingly, the words “NEVER FORGET” are emblazoned against a field of stars. The slide’s burnt-bronze Cerkote finish complements the aesthetics of the FCU and its trigger. SIG Sauer’s stippled grip module completes the pistol.
It is a beautiful and fitting tribute, though wholly unequal to the sacrifice and service of its recipient and the lives it remembers.
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