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As the Towers Were Falling

Original Air Date 09/11/2003

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Stanley Praimnath dramatically recounts how with the Lord's help, and the courageous actions of a stranger, he survived the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Episode Transcript

Opening:

Teaser:

Stanley Praimnath: And in mid-sentence I just raised my head, watching towards the Statue of Liberty and what I saw was the biggest aircraft that I’ve ever seen, bearing down on me-- eye level.

End of Teaser

John Fuller: Where were you on 9/11? That’s a question that instantly brings an answer to your mind and today’s guest, Stanley Praimnath, is no exception. But his memories are from INSIDE the second World Trade Tower…..You’re going to hear a dramatic eye-witness testimony as we remember September 11th, 2001. This is Focus on the Family; your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, I don’t think any of us will ever forget what we were doing when the Twin Towers were hit. I know exactly where I was at. It was about 6:45 mountain time here in Colorado and I was in the basement doing devotions. And the radio was on in the background and I heard a news alert. And I turned on the television and the first plane had struck and they were tryin’ to figure out how that coulda’ happened. I remember them saying it was a small plane, that it was foggy-- do you remember that?

And as I was watching the news, the second plane hit the building and-- wow! Obviously, everybody was glued to the news to see what would happen next And continue to try to figure out what was going on. It was one of those defining moments in American history, when we came under attack that very day.

John: And, of course, an hour later, a plane hit the Pentagon and then a short bit after that, Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania and we learned that, uh, the passengers of that plane heard about the other attacks and had fought back against the hijackers, but ultimately lost their lives in that crash.

Jim: Well, we want to keep these memories alive as a tribute to the nearly 3,000 people who were killed that day in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. And as you said, John, today’s speaker was inside the World Trade Center, where he was worked for a large bank. And as we’re about to hear, the Lord moved mightily in Stan’s life that day. And it all started with a pair of very thick, crepe-soled shoes that he had put on that morning for the very first time.

John: Here now is Stanley Praimnath on today’s Focus on the Family.

Body:

Stanley: I have an extraordinary story that I have to share with you tonight, but I’m just an ordinary person. I’m just a deacon from my church, a Sunday school superintendent. I’m a regular person. God chooses who He chooses and He does it for a reason we would never understand. See, our God that we serve is a big God Who is still in the miracle business.

See, today I want to take you back to that horrible day, September 11th, when tragedy struck home. If you close your eyes for one brief moment with me, you would imagine what I went through on that horrible day, when my day became night. It is a story with a good beginning and a good ending.

See, I started that day with a prayer in my heart. I’m taking my shower on September 11th. I’m praying in my heart, “Lord, take me to work. Cover me and all my loved ones under Your precious blood. And bring us home in peace and safety.” And for some apparent reason, that prayer that I just prayed, I was going over and over and over in my heart. Why? I don’t know.

See, I started that day with a prayer in my heart. When I came home that evening, I came home with a thanksgiving.

I told my wife that morning. I said, “Look, Jen, you know that shoe that I bought, the only shoe I bought in my life? That’s the one I’m gonna wear today.” I paid $110 for the shoe. My wife said it was an ugly shoe. (Laughter)

She said, “Stan, for $110, I could’ve gotten you a better-looking shoe.” (Laughter) Had I not wear [sic] that shoe, I probably would not have been able to walk again. The shoe today is in a box and I wrote the word “deliverance” all over that box. And I ... andI told my wife, I said “If ever I got cold for the Lord, yank me back; open that box; show me that shoe. Snap me back to reality.”

So, here I am. Jumped in the car; went to the airline. Took the train, went to work. Took the elevator, less than one minute, I’m up in the sky lobby, 78th floor. Got off from there. Took the local elevators. I work on the 81st. Got in the office. There’s a young lady, Delice. She is making copies at a copier.

The phone is ringing in [sic] my desk. My mother is on the phone. “Stan, how are you doing?” “I’m fine, thanks; how are you?” “Are you okay?” “I’m fine.” She hung up the phone. My brother Steve is on the phone, same questions. Why are these people calling me? He hung up. My brother Bill is calling me now.”Stan, are you okay?” “Yes, I’m fine.” Hung up the phone.

For no apparent reason, I turn and look at my right and what I saw was fireballs [sic] coming down. I couldn’t see One World Trade--the first tower that got hit--from the position where I was, but fireballswerecoming down. I don’t know where it’s coming from. I picked up the phone-- we had occupied four floors of Two World Trade Center, 79 through 82nd, and my boss, Peter Delgrasso, he was working on the 59th floor of One World Trade. So, I pick up the phone. “Hey, Peteysan, pick up the phone; pick up; pick up; pick up.” Nobody’s picking up, no response. [I] hung up the phone. I told Delice, “Let’s get out of here.” We ran down the corridor, back to the elevator where we came. So me and Delice [sic], 18 other people-- [I] worked with these people for 13 years. They’re more than friends.

We’re chitchatting. [The] elevator came; we went down. We’re about to go through the turnstile to exit the building, mezzanine level. Security guards stop us. “Where you guys are going?” “We’re going home.” “What ch’you [sic] mean you’re goin’ home?” “Yeah, we go home, because I saw fireballs coming down from One World Trade or something is happening outside.” He says, “Now your building is secured. Go back to your office.”

I made one of the wisest decisions I ever made. I turned to the young lady who was with me. I said “Delice, why don’t you have the rest of the day off?” She’s happy; she’s gone. We went back in the elevator. We’re going back now, 19 of us. Delice is gone. She’s happy.

Went back to the 78th floor, sky lobby. Got out from there. Some went to the 79th. Some went to the 80th. I went to the 81st myselfalone. The others went to the 82nd floor. Walked back down the corridor; I was coming back to my desk. The phone is ringing again. There’s a young lady from one of our branches in Chicago. “Stan, are you watching the monitor?” “No, I’m not.” “Stan, are watching the news?” “No, I’m not.” “Stan, are you okay?” “Of course, I am. Fine.” And in mid-sentence I just raised my head, watching towards the Statue of Liberty and what I saw was the biggest aircraft that I’ve ever seen bearing down on me-- eye level.

[I] dropped the phone, screamed and I dove under the desk, a steel desk. Later on when I watched the news, I saw that plane from coming straight, just made a little turn. The plane crashed, tilted like this. The bottom wing is tucked in my office door, 20 feet from where I was under my desk.

I’m crying. I’m screaming. I’m praying “Lord, send somebody, anybody. Help me, Lord. I don’t want to die. I want to see my two children. I want to go home to my family. I don’t want to die. Send somebody, anybody.” It looked as if a demolition crew had came [sic] in and had just broken up everything. All the wallswereflattened. All the deskswereunturned, but the desk that I was under just stayed intact.

See, I always carry my Bible. That Bible was on top of my desk and for some divine reason, that desk stayed intact. And I could see through all that rubble the plane wing that is tucked there-- that’s my exit-- starts to burn. It’s not a big flame. It’s a glow and in my mind that plane is gonna blow up and I’m gonna die. I have tohurry.

So, I’m screaming, “Lord, send somebody, anybody” and while I’m doing this, I’m trying to get up. Then I’m realizing that the entire ceiling collapsed and part of the 82nd floor and I’m buried under rubble--five feet of rubble--so only my head could show out.

All of a sudden, somebody heard my scream and had a flashlight. And I’m saying to myself, “what are the chances for somebody to have a flashlight in a time like this?” It is strange and I’m saying, “Am I dreaming? It’s my Lord. He sent somebody to save me.” I see a light. This time the man had a flashlight and he was waving it over his head in the hollow space of the ceiling.

That place looked like a war zone. The air was thick. It looked like somebody opened up a giant bag of cement and threw it in the air. That’s how that place looked and the smell of sulphur--I thought it was sulphur at the time--was so strong I couldn’t breathe. They say it was jet fuel. Had I known that that plane had exploded, had I known that that building was on fire, I probably would have died of panic attack.

So, I’m screaming at [the] top of my lungs now, “Please wait for me. Do not leave me to die.” But because of the crashing sound, I got (sic) temporary deaf. So I couldn’t hear the man. I couldn’t hear him responding and telling me that he’s going to wait for me...(crying) And I started to crawl on top of that debris and all that mangled steel and furniture. I crawled the entire length of the loans department, through the lounge, into the computer room, into the communication room. And then I realized I couldn’t go further, because there was a wall that stood intact--a Sheetrock wall, a drywall--that separates the stairway from me and the person with the flashlight.

Now people do strange things when they’re traumatized. I start asking the man some strange questions. “Who are you? What’s your name? Are you a Christian? Are you saved? Do you go to church?” The man told me later on that I was a nut. (Laughter)

Well, I’m sure I am. I’m a nut for the Lord, because in my heart I knew what I was about to do. He’s got to tell me his convictions. While I’m asking all these questions, I’m telling this man, “Now look; I can’t climb over this wall,” like he wants me to, because all these cables and wires hanging down, theywereshort-circuiting and theyweresparking. And the sprinkler system was on and my greatest fear in my heart was I was gonna be electrocuted. I didn’t want to die.

He told me his name was Brian Clark. “Let me climb over the wall” and I says [sic], “I can’t do it.” He says, “Don’t ... climb over. If you want to live, climb over.” I says [sic] “No. I want to live. You pray with me.” Now I can’t see if this man prayed or not, but I’m about to go to pray and part of a ceiling came down. And trying to prevent it from hitting my face, I put my hands up and that Sheetrock nail went in my hand.

And I said, “Hah!” He said “What happened?” I says, “A nail went in my hand.” He said, “Well, bite it out.” I said, “I can’t.” He said, “Well, push against the piece of wood and the nail is gonna come out.” I took the second option. The hand ballooned. I was cut; I was bruised; I was bloody. My head was full of cement. If you looked at me, you would have sworn that I was a terrorist.

I had no shirt. It was gone. I called it my lucky pants. It stayed intact, not even a scratch. My undershirt looked as if it came out of a shredder. My shoe tells the entire story. Had I not had that shoe, I probably would not have been able to walk. (Choking up)

I said “Lord, just one time more. One time more, Lord, give me the strength. I have to see my children.” And I got up from that prayer. When I looked back at that wall, it did not possess a challenge this time. And I said in my heart, I said, “I will bust you down.” And with everything that I got, even though my hands are balloons, swollen and bleeding, I started to punch with everything I got until my hand went through and Brian Clark said, “I see a hand.” I said, “When you see my head, yank my body through.” (Laughter)

He pulled with all his might and he pulled me through. I thought my head came with my shoulders.

Program Note:

John: That’s 9/11 survivor, Stanley Praimnath on Focus on the Family. And more in just a moment, but get a free audio download of this riveting broadcast to listen again or share with a friend when you visit focusonthefamily.com/radio.

End of Program Note

Stanley: I fell on top of him. I gave that man the biggest hug and kiss I ever gave a man before. (Laughter)

I said, “You are my guardian angel and my God sent you to save me.” And the man slapped me. I thought he would have said thank you. The man slapped me. (Laughter) He said I was a nut. He wanted to snap me back to reality. That’s what he told me. And I looked at him and I says, “Brian, we gotta hurry. This building is going. And he turned and he looked at me as if I was crazy. He said, “Stan, by profession I’m an engineer and steel don’t bend.” I said, “Well, we’ve gotta go. This plane is gonna blow up and this building is going.” And he looked at me strange. We got a long way to go down now from the 81st floor to the ground floor. I’m cut and bloodied and bruised. I’m tired.

We tried to walk down from the 81st to the 80th floor. There was so much debris in the stairway, we just slid right down. The next thing we know we landed on the 80th floor. We’re stopping to take a breather intermittently, because I was tired. [On] one floor we saw a man. He was lying on his back covered in blood. His back was broken and he was crying like a baby and a security guard was standing like a hawk guarding this man. And he said, “Please tell my wife and our baby--we just got a new baby--that I love ‘em. And send somebody else, please send somebody else--the EMS workers--to take me down.” I said “No, I’ll take you down.” The security guard says, “Don’t touch this man. Trying to take him down, you’ll cause more injury.” The poor man never made it out, because there was no EMS people coming up while weweregoing down.

Brian Clark told me later on that had he not heard me screaming, he would have made the wrong decision to go back up like the other people who came with him and he would have perished. We’re going down now like two buddies coming home from a long day, like a battle or somethin’, we’re going down. We stopped at another floor. Brian called his wife. Told his wife, “Look, everything is fine. I’m coming home.” I called my wife. When she saw that second plane coming into that building, she couldn’t take it no more, so she went home. I spoke to her supervisor. She was in tears. I said, “If you can get hold [sic] of Jenny, tell her that I’m coming home. I’m fine.”

But it had not ended yet. We still gotta go downstairs. So, we’re hurrying now. We’re hobbling. We’re going downstairs. By this time, we are soaked. The sprinkler system is on. The stairway we could’ve seen because it was painted after the ‘93 bombing with luminous paint, so it glows in the dark. We hit the ground floor. The only people whoweretherewerethe EMS workers, the cops and the firefighters. And they had roped around three blocks around the World Trade Center. And these good menwerecheering us along.

So, me and Brian [sic], we’re running and I’m telling Brian, “Brian, I’m going to Trinity Church. This is the Lord’s doing. I gotta gothank the Lord.” Brian says, “I’m coming with you.” We’re going down, we’re running. The cops are saying, “Look out! Watch out for broken glass!” It’s coming down like confetti, like a ticketed parade; that’s exactly how it looked. The funny thing is we ran through, not one piece of glass cut us. Can’t explain it. Beats all the logic.

In running, we bumped into a priest. And I told that priest, I remember saying, “This man is my guardian angel. My Lord senthimto save me.” The next thing I know I’m holding onto the fence. And I turn to Brian for the last time and I’m telling him the same thing. “Brian, this building is going.” And Brian is about to give me another slap and together we turned and watched the TwinTowersfor the last time. It started to sway and it started to buckle and that sound that when you bend steel and broken steel what it makes, it started to creak like that--an eerie ghostly sound. And the building started to implode. At first I thought it was gonna fall over, it was gonna flip over the way it was, you know, swaying from side to side. But the building was built in such a way to withstand, at the time, five helicopters crashing into it, one shot, without taking it out. But who knew jet fuel was that powerful? The building came down.

I pushed Brian away. I said, “Get away as far as possible from this city. It’s a dangerous place.” And everybody starts running, screaming. Some of them are cursing, trampling each other. And we got misplaced; we got separated in the crowd.

I had to go tell my wife. I had to tell her because in my mind somewhere down there past her, I really thought that they were bombing the financial area. I says, “Ah, I’ve gotta tell my wife. Gotta get her to safety.” I called her. I said, “Jen, this is Stan.” She says, “Who is this?” I says, “Me, Stan, I’m all right.” She says, “Please don’t play games with me. Why are you doing this to me?” I said, “No, I’m okay. I’m coming home to you and the girls.” She said, “No, you’re not my husband. Don’t do that. Don’t play games with me.” I said, “No, my Lord protected me. He’s sending me home to take care of you.” She was hysterical.

I reached home. I pull up in the driveway. The neighborswereout. The front door was open. My two little girls, Stephanie, 9 ... Kaitlin is gonna be 5 next month and my wife is standing by the door. The neighbors saw me, they went back in their house-- they wanted to give me some private time with my family. Walked in the house-- my little one, Kaitlin looks at me. Says, “You are not daddy. You look different.” So I says, “No, this is daddy. I’ve come home to take care of you.” I hugged my wife. I hugged the two children and says [sic], “Lord, thank You.”

See, that morning, I went to work with a prayer in my heart and it was time for a thanksgiving. I went to bed that night and I could not fall asleep. So, what do I do? I pick up the Bible. I’m watching the news. People are saying emergency is spelling[sic] with nine letters. September is spelling with nine. All these E-mails are flying crazy over 9/11 means so, so, so. It’s an emergency number.

I pick up the Bible and I turned to Psalm 91:1. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” And I went to bed and Pastor Scott, I slept like a baby. You see, I sought the Lord and He heard me and He delivered me from all these fears, like they said in Psalm 34.

See, on that particular day, everything that I asked God for, He gave me. I said, “Lord, send somebody, anybody. He sent Brian Clark.

I said, “Lord, just one time more, help me.” He had me … made me break down that wall. I said, “Lord, help me.” And He held up that building in His palm of His hands until wewerein perfect, perfect safety. The building caved in afterwards. It was like I had direct connection to God that particular day. It was like a hotline to God. There was no call waiting, no operator, no long-distance carrier, no nothing! I call and He responded. I sought the Lord and He heard me. Praise the Lord! He covered me under His wings, under His feathers. A thousand shall fall at thy left, but no harm shall come unto thee.

Now how do you explain this logically? I can’t. I ask myself many, many times. I says [sic] “Lord, why me?” That inner voice comes back to me. “Well, Stan, why not you?” See, I’m reminded of a chorus my daughter, Kaitlin sings in Sunday school. My God is so big, so strong and so mighty. There’s nothing my God cannot do. I ask myself, ooh, this is very, very profound I told myself many, many times. But you gotta be careful what you ask the Lord for. Because if you ask Him with all your heart and all your mind and all your body and all your soul-- you just cry, you just pour your heart into him-- He’s gonna give you that desire. He will give you. Because faithful as He is, He still does miracles in people’s lives.

Today I want to give God all the thanks and all the praises, because He is the Almighty One. He is the King of Kings. He is the Lord of Lords. He is the Prince of Peace. He is a Superstar. He is Jehovah Jireh, my provider. He’s the Everlasting One. He is Abba, my Father. Praise the Lord. And this, my good people, is my testimony. I hope it blesses all your hearts. Praise the Lord.

Closing:

John: An unforgettable message from Stanley Praimnath, who survived the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in New York.

Jim: Isn’t it interesting how little things make a big difference? Sometimes our very lives can depend on what seems like insignificant decisions over the course of a day, leading to actual survival for some and horrible experiences for others.

As we said at the beginning of today’s show, those brand-new shoes Stanley wore on September 11th had a very thick crepe sole and he later discovered that they were totally embedded with nails and other sharp debris. If he had worn his typical thin, leather dress shoes, his feet would’ve been shredded and and would never have been able to walk down 81 flights of stairs. Think of that little decision! And that almost seems so coincidental, but we know with God there are no coincidences. We call ‘em God-incidences.

John: Yeah, and Stan was so grateful to get home and hug his wife and children. And he had the stark reality that so many others didn’t make it home that day.

Jim: Well, let me just remind all of us of a scripture that relates to this, I think, Proverbs 3, 5 and 6, kind of a life verse for me-- “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.” That’s asking you to rely 100 percent, not 90 percent or 50 percent, but 100 percent that the Lord knows what He’s doing and you can trust Him.

And I think in part, John, it’s because this is a pit stop for us as human beings. Life isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning and for those of us that believe in Jesus, we have eternal life. And I think that’s why God says, rest in Me; it’ll be okay.

John: Well, I’d agree Jim, and that is a terrific way to wrap up this program. Now this reminder we’re making the audio download of today’s message with Stanley Praimnath available-- it’s free today, so get your copy at focusonthefamily.com/radio. Well next time, we’ll hear from NFL veteran, Benjamin Watson. He has advice to be an intentional dad.

Teaser:

Benjamin Watson: You need to sit in the garage or in front of the house for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes-- whatever it is-- and when you walk through that door, you need to be husband, father, leader. Because your family doesn’t care about what happened at work.

End of Teaser

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Guest

Stanley Praimnath

View Bio
Stanley Praimnath is a banking associate for Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation in New York. He is a licensed Assemblies of God minister and enjoys undertaking challenging mission trips. Stanley and his wife, Jennifer, have two daughters.