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Was Survival A Miracle?

On Sept. 11, only four people who worked on or above where a hijacked plane struck the second tower of the World Trade Center, survived. Two of them are Stanley Praimnath and Brian Clark. They visited The Early Show to share their story.

At approximately 9:03 a.m, Praimnath, a 45-year-old executive of Fuji Bank, saw United Airlines Flight 175 flying directly at him.

"I saw the entire plane coming at eye level," he said. "And as I'm staring, I dropped the phone and said, 'Lord I can't do it, you take over' and I dove under my desk." He said that if you look at the tape of the plane approaching the South Tower, that you will see it turn. If it hadn't, Praimnath said that he wouldn't be here adding that it was God who saved him.

"It's like God pushed this plane from me," he said.

Praimnath had just returned to his office after going all the way down to the ground floor with about 20 co-workers, after the North Tower was struck. He said that when they were about to go through the turnstile, a security guard told them go back upstairs. All of them but one, his assistant, who he told to go home, did. Praimnath said that he didn't want to go back upstairs, but the guys stood in the elevator and teased him about maybe being scared. "I wasn't scared, but in my heart I said to myself something is not right. In the '93 bombing, I was on the 79th floor having lunch." He recalled getting in the elevator and telling the head of Human Resources that he better start thinking about relocation. "This is the last conversation I had with these men," he said. "Some went to 79, 80, 81 and 82. All the people who came down with me on the first hand and came back were gone on impact."

Praimnath said that the wing of UAL Flight 175 was stuck in his office doorway about 20 ft. from where he was. "This is God's doing," he said. The plane caused the 82nd floor to fall on top of his desk and he was under it covered with rubble. "I got temporarily deaf because of the impact of the sound," he said. "The noise was so great it popped my ear. The smell of jet fuel was all over. I thought it was sulfur. I saw the bottom wing and the front of the plane stuck in the building. The rest of the plane is somewhere else. The sound was like steel being ripped out. The bottom wings started to burn and I'm hiding under the desk covered with rubble. I said, 'Lord I'm going to die. The plane had already exploded. Had I known, the panic attack would have killed me."

He decided to crawl away from the wreckage and the huge hole the plane made, which was again, about 20 ft. away. As he did, he heard voices and saw someone with a flashlight. It was Brian Clark, who was a fire warden and worked on the 84th floor. Clark was with a group of people who were headed downstairs and then encountered a woman who convinced all except two of them to go back upstairs because there was too much smoke and fire below. While they were debating about what to do, Clark heard someone banging and yelling for help. The person who was with him left because of the smoke; Clark stayed to help.

From under his desk, Praimnath said he crawled the entire floor from the loans department into the computer room to the communication room and he realized he couldn't go any further. "There was a wall that separated me from the guy with the flashlight. I started to get my hearing back a little and he said to knock on the wall. I said that I couldn't breathe," recalled Praimnath. "I said are you a Christian and do you go to church? I said I have to know your convictions. I want you to pray with me. I said, 'Lord, I don't' want to die. I want to see my wife and children.'"

After that prayer, Praimnath said the wall didn't present a challenge anymore. "I started to pound on this wall with everything I had and a piece of the wall collapsed. A nail went through my palm." He managed to pull the nail out of his hand and it ballooned and squirted blood. Not long afterwards, Praimnath somehow managed to punch a large enough hole through the wall, but he had to jump up twice to grab it and be pulled through by Clark.

Praimnath told Clark he was his guardian angel when he introduced himself. "I said we have to get out. This building is going," Praimnath said that he didn't really know what he meant by "going" but that's what came to his mind.

"We tried to walk down to the 80th floor and the next thing we know we just slid down. We are now on 80 and I'm cut bruised, black and blue. We stopped for a breather and we saw a man lying down. His back was broken and he said, 'Please tell my wife and child I love them. We just got married,' and a security guard said don't touch him. Clark said he tried calling 911 to say there's a man down, but he couldn't get through." Clark, however was able to call his wife Diane and Praimnath also left a message for his wife, Jenny, at work with her supervisor.

On the way down Praimnath remembers passing Jose, a man who worked with Clark. He had a walkie-talkie and said that he was going up to help someone. Clark told him that he was going down to help Praimnath. "That was the last we saw of Jose," said Praimnath. "I'm hurrying Brian and saying that I have to go to Trinity Church. I have never gone there before, but something is telling me go to this building. It's going, get out as fast as possible."

They went directly to Trinity church, where Praimnath was inspired to go. "I said, 'Brian, this building is going down. He said, 'I'm an engineer by profession and steel doesn't bend.' As soon as he said that, it came down and we got separated...I gave him my card and he gave me his. I had never seen him before in my life," Praimnath said.