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Thomas standing at the ruins of the World Trade Center, days after the attacks.
|Born||1974 (age 41–42)|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Marine Corps|
|Battles/wars||War in Afghanistan
Iraq War
Jason Thomas (born ca. 1974) is a United States Marine who located and rescued people in the aftermath of collapse of the World Trade Center in New York City after the September 11 attacks in 2001. With fellow U.S. Marine Dave Karnes, he helped find a pair of Port Authority Police officers buried in the rubble of the World Trade Center.
September 11, 2001
On September 11, 2001, Thomas was dropping his daughter off at the home of his mother on Long Island when she told him planes had struck the towers. The 27-year-old Thomas, having left active duty a year earlier, quickly put on his Marine uniform, sped to Manhattan and had just parked his car when one of the towers collapsed. Thomas ran toward the center of the ash cloud.
Thomas told the Associated Press:
"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. Dave Karnes. Thomas presented a plan for a search-and-rescue mission of the area, and he and Karnes tried to enlist other soldiers on site to help. When they were told the mission was too dangerous, they decided to go by themselves. "I found a couple guys, but it wasn't enough, to them, to start a search and rescue," he said. "I remember myself and Karnes saying, 'We're going to start the search and rescue with or without you, because someone needs us.'"
Carrying little more than 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. Then they met an operating engineer, who had a flashlight, and crawled down into the hole where the 2 cops were trapped, and spoke with Will. Then the engineer climbed out, and went for help, and brought back the FDNY.
Thomas said he returned to Ground Zero every day to pitch in, before attempting to put the events behind him. He did not even tell his five children about his rescues. He had identified himself to Karnes and others only as "Sergeant Thomas".
Jason Thomas is now serving in the United States Air Force as a medical technician.
In popular culture
Thomas, an African American, was portrayed in Oliver Stone's feature film World Trade Center by white actor William Mapother. Stone has said he was not aware that Thomas was black until filming was already underway.
On February 11, 2007, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition aired a special two-hour episode about Thomas and his family. Following the attacks, Thomas and his wife had moved their four children from New York to Whitehall, Ohio. The house they bought began to deteriorate and the show intervened to help them.
- Caruso, David B (August 14, 2006). "Mystery 9/11 rescuer reveals himself". Yahoo! News. Archived from the original on 2006-08-22.
- Associated Press (August 14, 2006). "Mystery 9/11 rescuer reveals himself; Unknown Marine steps forward as one who helped save two NYPD cops". MSNBC.com.
- Todd, Deborah M. (August 9, 2006). "'World Trade Center' omits Black soldier". The Pittsburgh Courier.
- Heroes Helping Humanity, The non-profit organization founded by Jason Thomas