Dave Karnes

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This article is about the U.S. Marine. For the U.S. Senator, see David Karnes.
David W. Karnes
Born 1958 (age 56–57)
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch USMC logo.svg United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1980–2004
Rank Staff Sergeant
Unit 3rd Marine Division[1]

Operation Desert Storm
Operation Enduring Freedom

Operation Iraqi Freedom
Awards Iraq Campaign ribbon.svg Iraq Campaign Medal
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary ribbon.svg Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service ribbon.svg Global War on Terrorism Service Medal[citation needed]

David W. Karnes (born c. 1958) is a retired U.S. Marine, who with Jason Thomas located and helped rescue two police officers trapped in the rubble from the September 11 attacks after the collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001.

September 11, 2001[edit]

Karnes, an accountant by profession, left his office at Deloitte and Touche in Wilton, Connecticut on September 11, 2001 soon after witnessing the attacks on television. Karnes said to his co-workers, "You guys may not realize it, but this country is at war."[2]

According to a Slate magazine profile, Karnes drove to a local church and asked the pastor and parishioners to say a prayer that God would lead him to survivors. A devout Christian, Karnes often turned to prayer when faced with decisions.[3]

Having spent 23 years in the Marine Corps infantry, he got a regulation hair cut, put on his Marine Corps camouflage utility uniform and obtained equipment that included rappelling gear. He drove from Connecticut to the World Trade Center to assist with the disaster. At the site, he ran into another Marine, Jason Thomas, and walked with him into the rubble. At the time, he only knew his fellow Marine as "Sgt. Thomas". His full identity was not discovered until years later.

According to a Defense Department profile of Karnes:

"As we were walking we were yelling at the top of our lungs 'United States Marines, can anyone hear us?'" Karnes described. 'As we approached the depression of the south tower I thought I heard something. Indeed it was some muffled call for help, I assured them that Thomas and I were both looking for them so keep yelling so we can find you.'

Karnes instructed Thomas to position himself on some high rubble for visibility and to guide any responding rescuers to the trapped men. To which he found an operating engineer with a flashlight,who climbed down and spoke with Will,one of the officers. After that, the operating engineer climbed through the rubble, and summoned the FDNY.

After Karnes called his wife and sister on his cell phone with instructions to relay to the authorities his whereabouts, he and Thomas were able to find two survivors."[2]

The two men found Will Jimeno and John McLoughlin, a pair of police officers buried in the rubble. Karnes spent a total of nine days at the site before returning to his office. Upon returning home, he reenlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve and went on to serve in the Philippines and Iraq. He served for 17 months, including two tours of duty in Iraq.

In film[edit]

In the 2006 Oliver Stone movie, World Trade Center, which tells this story, Karnes is played by Michael Shannon. Karnes did not cooperate in the making of Stone's World Trade Center movie due to Stone's anti-George Bush views. Some critics took issue with the portrayal in the film. Rebecca Liss of Slate magazine observed, "The film seems to overplay his zeal without conveying his motivations and reasoning." It notes he is unfairly portrayed as "a robotic soldier of Christ—a little wacky and simplistic."[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ David Karnes; Always A Marine, Defending Our Country
  2. ^ a b Libbert, Ryan D., Cpl., USMC. "DefendAmerica News - Profile - U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. David W. Karnes". Consolidated Public Affairs Office, USMC, Okinawa , Japan. 
  3. ^ Liss, Rebecca. "An Unlikely Hero: The Marine who Found Two WTC Survivors". Slate magazine. 
  4. ^ Liss, Rebecca. "How the 9/11 Rescue Really Happened". Slate magazine.