Here is survivor Stanley Praimnath's account:
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. Yet, this day he would see the hand of God spare his life. "For some particular reason, I gave the Lord a little extra of myself that morning [during prayer]," Stanley said. "I said, 'Lord, cover me and all my loved ones under your precious blood.' And even though I said that and believed it, I said it over and over and over."
When 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. "My Testament [Bible] was on top of my desk," explained Stanley. "I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Lord was going to take care of me once I got there." 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. "Lord, you take control, this is your problem now," he recalled praying. "I don't know where I got this power from, but the good Lord, He gave me so much power and strength in my body that I was able to shake everything off. I felt like I was the strongest man alive." All the while, Stanley was asking to the Lord to spare his life. "I'm crying and I'm praying, 'Lord, I have things to do..., I want to see my family, Lord, help me through.' " 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--my Lord sent somebody to save me!' " 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 through the wall. "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, and I said to the wall, 'You're going to be no match for me and my Lord.' " 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," said Stanley. After thanking God for sparing his life, Stanley told God whatever he did, it will always be for His glory. "I'm so sore, but every waking moment, I say 'Lord, had you not been in control, I would not have made it.' "For some divine reason, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the good Lord's mighty hand turned the plane a fraction from where I was standing," said Stanley. "Because when it crash-landed, it was just 20 feet from me. I don't care who would rationalize--what people would say now or years from now, but I know it was the handiwork of the Lord that turned that plane. My Lord Jesus is bigger than the Trade Center and His finger can push a plane aside!"
Survivor Adam Mayblum's account:
My name is Adam Mayblum. I am alive today. I am committing this to "paper" so I never forget. SO WE NEVER FORGET. I am sure that this is one of thousands of stories that will emerge over the next several days and weeks.
I arrived as usual a little before 8am. My office was on the 87th floor of 1World Trade Center, AKA: Tower 1, AKA: the North Tower. Most of my associates were in by 8:30m. We were standing around, joking around, eating breakfast, checking emails, and getting set for the day when the first plane hit just a few stories above us. I must stress that we did not know that it was a plane. The building lurched violently and shook as if it were an earthquake.People screamed. I watched out my window as the building seemed to move 10 to 20 feet in each direction. It rumbled and shook long enough for me to get my wits about myself and grab a co-worker and seek shelter under a doorway. Light fixtures and parts of the ceiling collapsed. The kitchen was destroyed. We were certain that it was a bomb. We looked out the windows. Reams of paper were flying everywhere, like a ticker tape parade. I looked down at the street. I could see people in Battery Park City looking up. Smoke started billowing in through the holes in the ceiling. I believe that there were 13 of us.
We did not panic. I can only assume that we thought that the worst was over. The building was standing and we were shaken but alive. We checked the halls. The smoke was thick and white and did not smell like I imagined smoke should smell. Not like your BBQ or your fireplace or even a bonfire. The phones were working. My wife had taken our 9 month old for his check up. I called my nanny at home and told her to page my wife, tell her that a bomb went off, I was ok, and on my way out. I grabbed my laptop. Took off my tee shirt and ripped it into 3 pieces. Soaked it in water. Gave 2 pieces to my friends. Tied my piece around my face to act as an air filter. And we all started moving to the staircase. One of my dearest friends said that he was staying until the police or firemen came to get him. In the halls there were tiny fires and sparks. The ceiling had collapsed in the men's bathroom. It was gone along with anyone who may have been in there. We did not go in to look. We missed the staircase on the first run and had to double back. Once in the staircase we picked up fire extinguishers just incase. On the 85th floor a brave associate of mine and I headed back up to our office to drag out my partner who stayed behind. There was no air, just white smoke. We made the rounds through the office calling his name. No response. He must have succumbed to the smoke. We left defeated in our efforts and made our way back to the stairwell. We proceeded to the 78th floor where we had to change over to a different stairwell. 78 is the main junction to switch to the upper floors. I expected to see more people. There were some 50 to 60 more. Not enough. Wires and fires all over the place. Smoke too. A brave man was fighting a fire with the emergency hose. I stopped with to friends to make sure that everyone from our office was accounted for. We ushered them and confused people into the stairwell. In retrospect, I recall seeing Harry, my head trader, doing the same several yards behind me. I am only 35. I have known him for over 14 years. I headed into the stairwell with 2 friends.
We were moving down very orderly in Stair Case A. very slowly. No panic. At least not overt panic. My legs could not stop shaking. My heart was pounding. Some nervous jokes and laughter. I made a crack about ruining a brand new pair of Merrells. Even still, they were right, my feet felt great. We all laughed. We checked our cell phones. Surprisingly, there was a very good signal, but the Sprint network was jammed. I heard that the Blackberry 2-way email devices worked perfectly. On the phones, 1 out of 20 dial attempts got through. I knew I could not reach my wife so I called my parents. I told them what happened and that we were all okay and on the way down. Soon, my sister in law reached me. I told her we were fine and moving down. I believe that was about the 65th floor. We were bored and nervous. I called my friend Angel in San Francisco. I knew he would be watching. He was amazed I was on the phone. He told me to get out that there was another plane on its way. I did not know what he was talking about. By now the second plane had struck Tower 2. We were so deep into the middle of our building that we did not hear or feel anything. We had no idea what was really going on. We kept making way for wounded to go down ahead of us. Not many of them, just a few. No one seemed seriously wounded. Just some cuts and scrapes. Everyone cooperated.
Everyone was a hero yesterday. No questions asked. I had co-workers in another office on the 77th floor. I tried dozens of times to get them on their cell phones or office lines. It was futile. Later I found that they were alive. One of the many miracles on a day of tragedy.
On the 53rd floor we came across a very heavyset man sitting on the stairs. I asked if he needed help or was he just resting. He needed help. I knew I would have trouble carrying him because I have a very bad back. But my friend and I offered anyway. We told him he could lean on us. He hesitated, I don't know why. I said do you want to come or do you want us to send help for you. He chose for help. I told him he was on the 53rd floor in Stairwell A and that's what I would tell the rescue workers. He said okay and we left.
On the 44th floor my phone rang again. It was my parents. They were hysterical. I said relax, I'm fine. My father said get out, there is third plane coming. I still did not understand. I was kind of angry. What did my parents think? Like I needed some other reason to get going? I couldn't move the thousand people in front of me any faster. I know they love me, but no one inside understood what the situation really was. My parents did. Starting around this floor the firemen, policemen, WTC K-9 units without the dogs, anyone with a badge, started coming up as we were heading down. I stopped a lot of them and told them about the man on 53 and my friend on 87. I later felt terrible about this. They headed up to find those people and met death instead.
On the 33rd floor I spoke with a man who somehow new most of the details. He said 2 small planes hit the building. Now we all started talking about which terrorist group it was. Was it an internal organization or an external one? The overwhelming but uninformed opinion was Islamic Fanatics. Regardless, we now knew that it was not a bomb and there were potentially more planes coming. We understood.
On the 3rd floor the lights went out and we heard & felt this rumbling coming towards us from above. I thought the staircase was collapsing upon itself. It was 10am now and that was Tower 2 collapsing next door. We did not know that. Someone had a flashlight. We passed it forward and left the stairwell and headed down a dark and cramped corridor to an exit. We could not see at all. I recommended that everyone place a hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them and call out if they hit an obstacle so others would know to avoid it. They did. It worked perfectly. We reached another stairwell and saw a female officer emerge soaking wet and covered in soot. She said we could not go that way it was blocked. Go up to 4 and use the other exit. Just as we started up she said it was ok to go down instead. There was water everywhere. I called out for hands on shoulders again and she said that was a great idea. She stayed behind instructing people to do that. I do not know what happened to her.
We emerged into an enormous room. It was light but filled with smoke. I commented to a friend that it must be under construction. Then we realized where we were. It was the second floor. The one that overlooks the lobby. We were ushered out into the courtyard, the one where the fountain used to be. My first thought was of a TV movie I saw once about nuclear winter and fallout. I could not understand where all of the debris came from. There was at least five inches of this gray pasty dusty drywall soot on the ground as well as a thickness of it in the air. Twisted steel and wires. I heard there were bodies and body parts as well, but I did not look. It was bad enough. We hid under the remaining overhangs and moved out to the street. We were told to keep walking towards Houston Street. The odd thing is that there were very few rescue workers around. Less than five. They all must have been trapped under the debris when Tower 2 fell. We did not know that and could not understand where all of that debris came from. It was just my friend Kern and I now. We were hugging but sad. We felt certain that most of our friends ahead of us died and we knew no one behind us.
We came upon a post office several blocks away. We stopped and looked up. Our building, exactly where our office is (was), was engulfed in flame and smoke. A postal worker said that Tower 2 had fallen down. I looked again and sure enough it was gone. My heart was racing. We kept trying to call our families. I could not get in touch with my wife. Finally I got through to my parents. Relived is not the word to explain their feelings. They got through to my wife, thank God and let her know I was alive. We sat down. A girl on a bike offered us some water. Just as she took the cap off her bottle we heard a rumble. We looked up and our building, Tower 1collapsed. I did not note the time but I am told it was 10:30am. We had been out less than 15 minutes.
We were mourning our lost friends, particularly the one who stayed in the office as we were now sure that he had perished. We started walking towards Union Square. I was going to Beth Israel Medical Center to be looked at. We stopped to hear the President speaking on the radio. My phone rang. It was my wife. I think I fell to my knees crying when I heard her voice. Then she told me the most incredible thing. My partner who had stayed behind called her. He was alive and well. I guess we just lost him in the commotion. We started jumping and hugging and shouting. I told my wife that my brother had arranged for a hotel in midtown. He can be very resourceful in that way. I told her I would call her from there. My brother and I managed to get a gypsy cab to take us home to Westchester instead. I cried on my son and held my wife until I fell asleep.
As it turns out my partner, the one who I thought had stayed behind was behind us with Harry Ramos, our head trader. This is now second-hand information. They came upon Victor, the heavyset man on the 53rd floor. They helped him. He could barely move. My partner bravely/stupidly tested the elevator on the 52nd floor. He rode it down to the sky lobby on 44. The doors opened, it was fine. He rode it back up and got Harry and Victor. I don't yet know if anyone else joined them. Once on 44 they made their way back into the stairwell. Someplace around the 39th to 36th floors they felt the same rumble I felt on the 3rd floor. It was 10am and Tower 2 was coming down. They had about 30 minutes to get out. Victor said he could no longer move. They offered to have him lean on them. He said he couldn't do it. My partner hollered at him to sit on his butt and schooch down the steps. He said he was not capable of doing it. Harry told my partner to go ahead of them. Harry had once had a heart attack and was worried about this mans heart. It was his nature to be this way. He was/is one of the kindest people I know. He would not leave a man behind. My partner went ahead and made it out. He said he was out maybe 10 minutes before the building came down. This means that Harry had maybe 25 minutes to move Victor 36 floors. I guess they moved 1 floor every 1.5 minutes. Just a guess. This means Harry wad around the 20th floor when the building collapsed. As of now 12 of 13 people are accounted for. As of 6pm yesterday his wife had not heard from him. I fear that Harry is lost. However, a short while ago I heard that he may be alive. Apparently there is a web site with survivor names on it and his name appears there. Unfortunately, Ramos is not an uncommon name in New York. Pray for him and all those like him.
With regards to the firemen heading upstairs, I realize that they were going up anyway. But, it hurts to know that I may have made them move quicker to find my friend. Rationally, I know this is not true and that I am not the responsible one. The responsible ones are in hiding somewhere on this planet and damn them for making me feel like this. But they should know that they failed in terrorizing us. We were calm. Those men and women that went up were heroes in the face of it all. They must have known what was going on and they did their jobs. Ordinary people were heroes too. Today the images that people around the world equate with power and democracy are gone but "America" is not an image it is a concept. That concept is only strengthened by our pulling together as a team. If you want to kill us, leave us alone because we will do it by ourselves. If you want to make us stronger, attack and we unite. This is the ultimate failure of terrorism against The United States and the ultimate price we pay to be free, to decide where we want to work, what we want to eat, and when & where we want to go on vacation. The very moment the first plane was hijacked, democracy won.
Jeff Jarvis speaks of his experience:
Yes, I am blessed to be alive.
I was a block away from the World Trade Center, at Broadway and Liberty Street, when the first of the two towers collapsed Tuesday morning. Completely engulfed in its debris, I joined a mob running away, screaming, unable to see, unable to breathe anything but the black cloud.
As the first of the tidal wave of debris bore down on us, some people crouched behind large concrete planters, believing they would protect them. But I kept running. I fell. Others fell around me. I got back up and kept running. I heard large pieces of the destroyed building hitting cars on the street. I heard more terrified screams.
There was no air. I breathed through my handkerchief and even so, my mouth, nose and lungs were filled with black. There was no light. I could see nothing, only black. I slammed into a building, and a tree, and another building.
I heard people and asked where we were. No one answered. I kept going and finally saw light at Chase Plaza II, where the building managers opened the doors, letting us refugees and much smoke inside.
People wreteched up the black soot of the tower. They splashed water from any sink they could find to try to clean off the inch-thick layer of destruction. They took showers in bottled Poland Spring water, even Snapple from a lobby deli that volunteered to be looted by us.
We went down in the building, lower and lower, told it was safer down there, though no one knew for sure. A half-hour later, we ventured back up. The worst of the cloud had passed. We joined a larger, slower mob moving east, away.
I saw people covered in white, like me. I saw a line of people snaking up and across the Brooklyn Bridge. Some cried. Some just stared. Many of us said to each other and to no one that we were lucky to be alive.
Not much more than an hour earlier, at about 8:45 a.m., I had arrived at the World Trade Center on the PATH train from New Jersey, just moments after the first plane had hit the first tower.
As we commuters came up the escalator, we heard an eerie noise: almost silence. When we arrived up on the concourse, we saw smoke behind us and the floor was almost empty, except for shoes, scores of shoes abandoned by their owners, fleeing too fast.
We fled up and out. "Run, run!" the police said. We all ran across the street and turned from survivors into spectators.
The crowd standing across the street, by the Century 21 Department Store, was sober and quiet. We didn't yet know what had happened. We all just looked up at the flames bursting out of One World Trade Center and the black smoke that cascaded out and away, marked by tiny dots of white: papers pouring out of the offices, floating down below.
And then, as one, the crowd let out a sound of horror. We saw the first person falling out of the building. And then another. I saw at least three people fall from the burning floors.
Stunned. Sickened. Almost silent. We stood and watched.
Moments later, Two World Trade Center exploded, sending out flames that licked its neighbor. I didn't see the plane that hit, just the flames.
Stupidly, I stayed. I'm a newsman still. I tried to call into NJ.com and the Star-Ledger, paying a deli owner $10 to use his phone. No one's cell phone worked. I called home and left a message saying I was OK (a message that would cause great concern until I left a second message much later, saying I was still OK).
I kept wandering the financial district, watching, soaking up what we in the news business call color: observations, not facts. There were no facts yet.
One woman had just escaped the 46th floor of one of the towers, her shoulders covered in sprinkles from the sprinklers, her hand shaking as it held a cigarette.
"I tell you, he's crazy of he doesn't close the exchange today," said a man in the uniform of Wall Street.
"See, that's why you go back to working in White Plains," a woman said.
People stood around a manhole cover where a worker had a radio. They laughed at the radio misinformation: "The streets have returned to normal," the radio said.
I read the papers that had drifted out of the towers: financial reports, PowerPoint printouts, airplane receipts, telephone bills, employee manuals, office telephone directories, singed and scattered.
I wandered back up Liberty Street where a foreign businessman asked me to take his picture in front of the burning tower. I refused. I said this was a tragedy. He said, "I know, I want to see myself and remember I am alive." I still refused.
I hope he still is alive.
A minute later, the spreading fire high up in Two World Trade erupted into a mighty explosion and the building collapsed, sending its debris down and my mob running.
After surviving the collapse, I walked and walked uptown.
We heard another horrid explosion. We kept walking.
I saw the people on the bridge and decided it was better to go north.
The black cloud was spreading across the river to Brooklyn. Many of us were covered in white soot with fleshy circles around our eyes and mouths. Even hardened New York cops asked me whether I was there; how bad it was; was I OK?
The farther uptown we got, the more we stood out. Some people looked a bit frightened. Some, classic New Yorkers, looked away. Many offered sympathy and help.
"You sure you're OK?" some nice stranger asked.
"I just look like a ghost," I said, still shaking off the white dust. "Better to look like one than be one."
I think a lot about the people who died in those horrific attacks. Especially the ones who knew they would die on their plane whether they fought or not, so they chose to go out fighting. Would I have that courage? Or the ones who made the choice to jump to their death rather than burn to death. Could I make that call? I wonder how they must feel looking at our woefully divided country just a mere eight years after their lives were unilaterally remembered by a mourning nation. How soon we forget. How quickly life moves on. A child loses a mother, a father loses a son. How can we not have time to remember? I think I'll read my kids these survivors' stories. I think we'll head over to the store and pick up an American flag to wave proudly in front of our home. I think I'll show them some videos and talk to them about what it means to be a patriot. I think I'll write my brother an email to thank him for his military service. And I think I'll try harder to share my opinions in a way that lovingly and humbly expresses my agreement or disagreement. I think I'll try to do my part to close that gaping divide that has rent our country in two. I think I'll try. I'll just plain try. Remember and try. I owe them that much.
Note: When commenting, please remember to refer to my family members by their pseudonyms to help protect their privacy. Thank you!