On the morning of 9/11, Scott Strauss was on the train home when he heard over his Walkman that a plane struck the World Trade Center. As a detective with the Emergency Service Unit of the NYPD, he questioned how something like that could happen on such a beautiful day.
Once he heard that a second plane hit the South Tower, he realized this was no accident. “Everybody in my unit knew where we had to be,” Strauss said. He grabbed some clothes, said goodbye to his wife and raced back into Manhattan.
Assigned to a rescue team, Strauss reached the World Trade Center moments after the North Tower collapsed. For the next several hours, he joined in the arduous task of searching for survivors in what would become known as “the pile.”
Around 7 p.m., Strauss was notified that Port Authority Police Sgt. John McLoughlin and rookie Officer Will Jimeno were found in the debris field. They survived the collapse of the towers, but were trapped 30 feet beneath the pile, injured and unable to escape. It was up to Strauss and his team to rescue them.
The team began the perilous journey — crawling over hot steel and squeezing through narrow, smoke-filled spaces — to reach the officers. It took more than three hours to pull Officer Jimeno to safety. Sgt. McLoughlin was rescued a few hours later.
When reflecting on the experience, Strauss gets emotional: “You better believe I wanted to get out of there. But … I don’t think I could have left [them] and gone home to my kids knowing I left [them] there.”
“It was tough. [But] being a part of that rescue helped me survive emotionally and personally. I helped someone get home to their families.”
In the years after 9/11, Strauss has gone on to serve his community in local government. Currently, he is the mayor of Mineola, Long Island.
Detective Strauss is one of four speakers who will share their stories for students and teachers across the country during the 9/11 Memorial Museum’s “Anniversary in the Schools” webinar on Sept. 11, 2018. For more information about this free program and to register, click here. The webinar is made possible thanks to generous support from the New York Life Foundation.
By Meredith Ketchmark, Youth & Family Programs Coordinator, 9/11 Memorial & Museum