Angel's Heroism

by Richard Hoeg

As we have already heard, Angel, the winner of Murder in Small Town X, was among the firefighters that went into the World Trade Center but have not come out. He is still officially listed as missing, but new details have come out about his acts of heroism in those final moments before the building collapsed. (

In the past couple weeks an amazing thing has happened. The United States of America has come together like never before, and the genre of reality TV is no exception. While there has been much discussion concerning the treatment of the Big Brother contestants in the wake of the events of September 11th, CBS' summer flagship series was not the only show touched by the disaster. As was reported last week, Angel Juarbe, the winner of Fox's reality show Murder in Small Town X, is one of the hundreds of missing firefighters who responded to the tragedy in the World Trade Center on that fateful day. In the past few days, there have been myriad requests for an update on Angel's status. I'm sad to say that there is no change. Angel Juarbe of Ladder Company 12 is still missing in the rubble of the World Trade Center. What has become far clearer, however, is the depth of Angel's heroism and sacrifice. What follows is an account of the events which led up to the separation of Ladder Company 12, as told to Joe Garcia, Angel's friend and regular contributor to Fox's MiSTX message board.

Ladder 12, it seems, was not one of the first to arrive at the disaster in the WTC, as was reported last week. Instead the firefighters from Chelsea arrived just after the first tower fell. With the second tower still standing but leaning, Angel and his company entered a hotel connected to the Trade Center. There he and his fellow firefighters slowly made their way up the levels of the hotel, escorting people down out of the building and onward to safety as they went. When some people on one of the higher levels needed actual physical assistance, the firefighters knew that they needed to become less encumbered. They elected to discard some of their emergency equipment. This included the entirety of their supply of rope.

Sometime later, when the team was rescuing people from the 14th floor, the call to evacuate was given. As Company 12 made their way down the stairs of the assaulted hotel, the building lost much of its structural integrity. The building began to groan under the stress, and the stairwells began to evidence this. When Ladder 12 was on about the 4th floor, the stairs below them began to collapse. (This apparently split the company, as some of the firemen were already out of the building.) When the stranded rescuers realized that they were going to need to rappel down the now ravaged stairwell, it became evident that they were going to need their supply of rope. Angel and another of the firefighters in his company were quick to volunteer.

As the two brave men began the long trek back up the stories of the hotel, they came into contact with another firefighter who was in trouble. Angel radioed back to the stranded men on the 4th floor that there was a firefighter who needed assistance. In response, a lieutenant from Ladder 12 left the 4th floor and began his own journey up the stairs of the hotel. At this point, the unimaginable happened. The World Trade Center's north tower collapsed. This was at 10:28 AM.

Amazingly, the firefighters stranded in the 4th floor stairwell all survived and are now accounted for. Apparently the stress caused one of the walls in the stairwell to collapse before the building proper, allowing the firemen to fall to the street below. Four stories, but all are apparently okay. Sadly, Angel and the two other rescuers from Ladder Company 12 are still unaccounted for. They were willing to pay the ultimate price for their firemen brothers, and they may have done just that.

The story of Angel Juarbe is like so many of the other heroes of September 11th. (Although I'm sure, like Angel, they would be reluctant to call themselves by that title.) It is a story not of one man's heroism, but of a strength of spirit that was shared by all of the rescuers on that day. It is a story that did not end with the deaths of so many Americans, but has merely begun. It is the prelude to a country's story, made up of such men and women who will defend that spirit with a resolve that the world has never before seen. In short, it is only the beginning.

And so, as this nation remembers all it has lost, I ask the same from all who might be reading this. Send in your thoughts, prayers, songs, impressions, and anything and everything else which has been touched by this humble fireman from New York. Tell us what Angel has meant to you. Above all else, do not lose hope. Miracles can happen, and Angel may very well be alive. It may seem like a longshot, but then again so did William Lambert. My thoughts and prayers go out to Angel and all of the rescuers and their families. May they know in their hearts that their sacrifice will never be forgotten.

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