A Survivor's Testimony
Surviving The 81St Floor Of World Trade Tower Two
Editor's note: This story is meant as a powerful demonstration of the power of prayer and is in no way meant to imply that those who were killed did not have a relationship with God or did not fervently pray. Our deepest sympathy goes out to the many thousands of people who are missing a friend, a father or mother, sister or brother, son or daughter.
Tuesday, September 11, 2001, began like any other day for Bethel Assembly of God deacon and Sunday school superintendent Stanley Praimnath of Elmont, Long Island. He got up early, took a shower, prayed, got ready and headed for work. The drive was uneventful. The train ride was the same.
"For some particular reason, I gave the Lord a little extra of myself that morning [during prayer]," Stanley arrived at World Trade Center Tower Two, he took the elevator up to his office on the 81st floor. "I work for the Fuji Bank Limited," he said. "I'm an assistant vice president in the Loans Operations Department. The company is located on the 79th through 82nd floors."
Stanley greeted Delise, a young lady who had arrived before him. After talking briefly, he headed over to his desk and picked up his phone to retrieve his messages.
"As I'm standing there retrieving my messages, I'm looking out at the next building, One World Trade, and I saw fire falling through from the roof," Stanley said. "Now, this entire building is surrounded by glass, and you can stand up and from there you can see all the buildings, planes and everything flying at the same altitude."
As Stanley saw "fire balls" coming down, his first reaction was to think of his boss who works in that building. He decided to try to call him to see if he was okay. "I'm dialing his number, and getting no response. So, I say to Delise, the temp, 'Go, go, go -- let's get out."
Delise and Stanley got on the elevator and went down to the 78th floor. Some other people were there. The company's president, the CEO, the human resources director and two other gentlemen joined the group and headed down to the concourse level of Two World Trade Center.
If they had continued on and exited the building, all of their lives would have been spared. As it was, that's not the way it happened.
"As soon as we reached the concourse level, the security guard stopped us and said, 'Where are you going?'
Stanley explained about seeing the fire in Tower One. According to Stanley, the guard said, "Oh, that was just an accident. Two World Trade is secured. Go back to your office."
That turned out to be fatal advice -- aside from Stanley, Delise was the only one of that group to survive.
"We were joking, and I told [Human Resources Director] Brian Thompson, 'This is a good time to think of relocating this building -- it's not safe anymore.' " Stanley headed back to his office, but before he got there, he told Delise, that with the events of the day, she should go home and relax.
Thompson went to the 82nd floor, the president and CEO went to the 79th floor and Stanley got out on the 81st floor. When Stanley got to his office, his phone was ringing. "It was someone from Chicago calling to find out if I'm watching the news," he said. He told the caller everything "was fine."
But everything wasn't fine -- far from it. As Stanley was talking, he looked up and saw American Airlines Flight 11 heading straight for him.
"All I can see is this big gray plane, with red letters on the wing and on the tail, bearing down on me," said Stanley. "But this thing is happening in slow motion. The plane appeared to be like 100 yards away, I said 'Lord, you take control, I can't help myself here.' "
Stanley then dove under his desk. As he curled into a fetal position under his desk, the plane tore into the side of the building and exploded.
Miraculously, Stanley was unhurt. However, he could see a flaming wing of the plane in the doorway of his department. He knew he needed to get out of his office and the building fast. But, he was trapped under debris up to his shoulders.
Stanley's office resembled a battle zone -- walls flattened into dusty heaps, office equipment strewn violently, flames flickering about and rubble everywhere. "Everything I'm trying to climb on [to get out] is collapsing and I'm going down," he said. "I'm getting cuts and bruises, but I'm saying, 'Lord, I have to go home to my loved ones, I have to make it, You have to help me.' "
Suddenly Stanley saw the light of a flashlight. For a moment, it stunned him. "What were the chances of someone bringing a flashlight to this floor?," he thought. "My first gut reaction was, 'This is my guardian angel -- "
Stanley began screaming, "I see the light, I see the light." But after clawing his way through the debris, he realized that he couldn't get out -- all the exits were blocked and his "guardian angel" couldn't get to him -- a wall was between him and the staircase.
"He can't get to me and I can't get to him, and by this time I can't breathe," Stanley said. "I don't know if it was sulfur or what [burning jet fuel, perhaps], but I can smell this thing. I got down on my knees and said, "Lord, you've got to help me. You've brought me this far, help me to get to the staircase."
But then Stanley did something surprising. While praying
on his knees, Stanley called out to the man behind the wall, "There's
one thing I got to know, do you know Jesus?" The man replied he went
to church every Sunday. Then they prayed together to enable them to break
"I got up, and I felt as if a power came over me," said Stanley. "I felt goose bumps all over my body and I'm trembling". Moments later, he punched his way through the wall and, with the help of the man on the other side, was able to squirm his way through the hole in the wall. "The guy held me and embraced me and he gave me a kiss and he said, 'From today, you're my brother for life.' "
But the danger wasn't over. The man on the other side of the wall, who introduced himself as Brian, was an older gentleman and they still had 81 floors to walk down, with the building on fire and, unknown to them, in danger of collapse. "We hobbled our way down, and at every floor we stopped to see if anybody was there, but nobody was..., but a man was on the floor, and his back was gone, and he was covered in blood."
Stanley asked to be allowed to carry the man out, but a security guard told him it would be better to send somebody up. When they finally made it down to the concourse, only firefighters were there. "They were saying, 'Run! Run! Run!', they were telling us to run out, but they were not concerned about themselves," he said.
Stanley and Brian would have ran from the building, but now the concourse was surrounded with fire. Wetting themselves under the building's sprinkler system, they held hands and ran through the flames to safety to Trinity Church about two blocks away. "I wanted to go to the church to thank God," Stanley explained, "As soon as I held onto the gate of that church, the building [World Trade Center Tower Two] collapsed."
Stanley and Brian made there way safely out of the danger area. Before they parted, Stanley gave his business card to Brian in hopes of contact at a later time, and said, "If I don't see you, I'll see you in heaven."
Cut and bloodied, with clothes tattered and wearing a borrowed shirt, Stanley finally made it home hours later to his wife Jennifer and his two girls, Stephanie (age 8) and Caitlin (age 4). "I held my wife and my two children and we cried and thanked God for sparing my life."
-- Dan Van Veen
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