For years, authorities wondered about the identity of a US Marine who appeared at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, helped find a pair of police officers buried in the rubble, then vanished.
Even the producers of the new film chronicling the rescue World Trade Center could not locate the mystery serviceman, who had given his name only as Sgt Thomas.
The puzzle was finally solved when one Jason Thomas, of Columbus, Ohio, saw a TV commercial for the new movie a few weeks ago as he relaxed on his couch.
His eyes widened as he saw two Marines with flashlights, hunting for survivors atop the smouldering ruins.
"That's us. That's me!" thought Thomas, who lived in Long Island during the attacks and now works as an officer in Ohio's Supreme Court.
Thomas, 32, hesitantly re-emerged last week to recount the role he played in the rescue of Port Authority police officers Will Jimeno and Sgt John McLoughlin, who were entombed beneath 20 feet of debris when the twin towers collapsed.
Back in New York to speak of his experience and visit family, Thomas provided the AP with photographs of himself at ground zero. As further proof of his identity, the movie's producer, Michael Shamberg, said Thomas and Jimeno have spoken by phone and shared details only the two of them would know.
Thomas, who had been out of the Marine Corps about a year, was dropping his daughter off at his mother's Long Island home when she told him planes had struck the towers.