Years before sitting in Marilyn's Cafe in Chester to share his story, before his retirement from the Port Authority Police Department that stemmed from the injuries he sustained in the 9/11 terror attack, Will Jimeno was a boy from Hackensack who loved to play soccer.
Born in Columbia, Jimeno came to America when he was two years old and it didn't take him long to fall for his new homeland.
"I was raised to be proud of my heritage," Jimeno said. "But my parents were very clear that America was our country."
It was that love for his country that led him to join the armed forces after High School.
"I joined the Navy instead of going to college and saw 11 different countries and a lot of different cultures," Jimeno said. "And one of the things I took away from it was how great this country is. The freedoms we have here could not be found elsewhere.
And that devotion to the flag and what it stands for is something Jimeno stills speaks about.
"Whenever I speak to a group or at a school I tell them that the American flag is not made of cloth," Jimeno said. "It is made of the blood of patriots."
After completing a tour with the Navy, Jimeno pursued his dream of becoming a police officer by obtaining an associaes degree in Criminal Justice from Bergen Community College.
"Its the job I wanted since I was a kid," Jimeno said. "I always wanted to be a cop."
Jimeno graduated from the Academy on January 19, 2001 in a ceremony at the Marriott at the World Trade Center.
"We were the centennial class," Jimeno said. "And out of the 77 of us that graduated 45 were assigned to the biggest bus terminal in the country."
As one of those 45, Jimeno said he experienced a baptism by fire dealing with gangs, the homeless and a myriad of "routine" police activities.
By the time September 10, 2001 had arrived Jimeno was living with his pregnant wife Allison and his four year old daughter Bianca in a house in Clifton.
"We had moved into this house six weeks before the attack," Jimeno said. "And I said to myself, 'I'm living the American Dream'."
In hindsight, the day was surprisingly normal.
"My mother said to me later when I picked up my daughter from her house on September 10 I had the biggest smile on my face," Jimeno said.
And that next morning, September 11, 2001, there was no hint as to what was to come.
"Every morning, including Sept. 11, I would get up and get ready for work and before I would leave I would kiss my wife, kiss her belly and kiss my little girl," Jimeno said. "And then I would literally skip down the stairs and go to work."
And despite the ordeal he went through, Jimeno refuses to let it sour him on life.
"As a survivor I remind people of what happened that day," Jimeno said. "But the good things. I want them to remember the good things, not the bad things. Because I saw a lot of love that day."
Part II of the series details Jimeno's experience at ground zero.