9/11 survivor recounts being in South Tower when plane hit

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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Stanley Praimnath said September 11, 2001, started out like any other workday.

Stanley Praimnath, 9/11 survivor from Louisiana. | Photo Source: KPLC

“All I remember is I went to my office and I didn’t know what had happened,” Praimnath said. “I was in the elevator when the first plane hit. The building is soundproof. I didn’t hear anything. I got into the office, the phone rang, my mother is on the phone asking ‘Stan, are you ok?’. ‘Yes’. I have three other brothers, Steve, Paul, Bill. They took turns asking me the same question. I think to myself this is a lot of life at 9 o’clock in the morning. I walk to my desk, put down my bag, and out of the corner of my eyes I see part of the North Tower. I didn’t know what was happening but I could see chunks of fireballs falling from the sky.”

He said he walked closer to the window and began looking up towards the North Tower.

“I call out to the young lady who is making copies at the copier,” Praimnath said. “I said ‘Come take a look, see what’s happening’. She says ‘Oh my God Stan, I’m scared’. So I go back to my desk, grab my phone, and call my boss. There was no response so I said let’s get out of here."

He said they took the elevator down to the lobby.

“I stepped out of the elevator and the security guard asks me where I’m going,” Praimnath said. “I said I am going home. He says the building is safe and secure and to go back to our office. You can hear the intercom system ‘Your office is safe and secure. Go back to your office’. So I am standing there deciding what to do. Had I known a plane had hit the first building I wouldn’t have gone back up. The young lady, Delise, said ‘Stan I’m scared. I want to go home'. I said to go home and take the rest of the day off. As she is walking away she keeps turning around asking if it’s ok. I keep telling her ‘go, go, go'. My bosses tell me ‘Come on Stan the man, we got a business to run’. I stepped back in the elevator and not a word was said. I never realized I would never see these folks again."

He said he went back to his office and the phone was ringing.

“A young lady from Chicago," Praimnath said. “I pick up the phone and she says ‘get out’. Get out for what? Tell me why and I’ll get out. ‘Stan we don’t have time, please go’. They are one hour behind time difference. She is seeing all of this on television. She knew it was a terrorist attack by then. I reassured her I’m fine. The next thing I know I just happen to stand up and I’m holding on to the phone and something caught my attention. Little at first, grey in color, and every second it’s getting larger and larger. United Airlines 175 is eyeballing me, coming towards me. Eye level. Eye contact. As this plane is coming towards me, I can hear that revving sound that the engine is making. The plane starts to tilt. All I remember is saying ‘Lord I can’t do this, you take over’. The plane starts to tilt within the closest thousand yards, I scream and say ‘Lord, I can’t do this, you take this over’ and dove under my desk. That’s all I remember seeing.”

Praimnath was on the 81st floor of the World Trade Center South Tower when United Flight 175 hit the building at 9:03 a.m. The plane crashed into floors 75 through 82.

“The only desk that stood firm was my desk," Praimnath said. "I had my Bible on top of the desk. Everything else was shattered. It looked like a demolition crew came in and ripped the place apart. Every wall is flattened, all the windows were popped, and what you didn’t see on tv was the air pressure was so great it was sucking everything out. A large chunk of the plane was stuck in the office door twenty feet from where I am. I am surrounded by flames. It looks like someone took a giant bag of cement and threw it in the air and I can’t breathe. The floor hovering above me is going to collapse, I’m going to get crushed, I’m going to die. Or I am going to get electrocuted, all the cables that are hanging from the ceiling drop. I’m going to die.”

He said he prayed to God asking for anyone to help him.

"I started to scream ‘Lord, I don’t want to die. Send somebody’, Praimnath said. "In that split second, someone heard that petition, that call, that cry for help. At the other end of the floor, somebody had a flashlight, shining it over his head. I started to crawl and I’m crying “Lord, who is going to walk Stephanie down the aisle?' My older daughter. ‘What is going to befall my wife and all the bills we have to pay?’ I didn’t want to die.”

Praimnath said he crawled to the other side of the 81st floor, but a sheetrock wall was standing in his way. He said he tried to climb over it, cutting his hand on a nail in the process. After he said he was able to punch his way through the sheetrock, the man pulled him to the other side. He said the man pulled him through the sheetrock with such force, they rolled down the stairs to the 80th floor.

“I didn’t know how to thank this man who just saved my life,” Praimnath said. “I reached down, gave him a hug around the neck, gave him a kiss on the cheek, he says ‘what, what are you doing?’ But he gets up and puts his hand out and says ‘Brian Clark’. This guy held on to my hand that was lacerated, he took his left index finger, and started caressing the wound. He looked me in the eyes and said 'All my life I lived as an only child. I was born and raised in Canada. I always wanted a brother and I found that man today. That good old Irish man put his arm around my shoulder and said ‘Come on buddy, let’s go home’."

Praimnath said he and Clark made their way down one of the stairwells and ran to Trinity Church.

“And the next thing I know, the building starts to implode,” he said. “One floor after the other, after the other, after the other. All hell broke loose.”

After burning for 56 minutes, the South Tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m. He said he and Clark were separated and he made his way back to home. He said Clark was able to track him down that night.

“He called, but I don’t remember that conversation," Praimnath said. “I lost my mind. I literally lost my mind. I lost my speaking vocabulary. I lost my memory. Many things from 2002 to 2006 I don’t remember. My wife would show me pictures and videos and I would look at them and not remember. She would have to walk me back. But Brian assumed a big brother role towards me. He would call me and ask if I was able to go to work. He couldn’t cope, he couldn’t go back to work. He retired after that. He went into early retirement.”

Praimnath said although the recovery was difficult, he credits his faith for helping him pull through.

“It was through the grace of God that I lived and beat all the odds,” Praimnath said. “So today I got up, this morning I got up, walked outside, stood in the sun, and said ‘Lord, thank you for another day. Your mercies are renewed every morning and thank you for that grace. Had it not been for you, I would have died'. Life is not about sitting down, it’s about getting up and going forward. The bad guys might come and knock you down, you get hurt, but a man who is down cannot fight. You have to get up and fight. I am an American. I am a man who loves my family, who loves my job, and who loves my country, and you can’t knock me down for that.”

Praimnath is now a motivational speaker, a minister, and continues to be a full-time bank employee.

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