His song of protection – Psalm 91:1
The 911 Commission credits Stanley Praimnath as the only known survivor from the impact zone at the World Trade Center towers on September 11.
“The Lord saw fit for me to live,” says Praimnath, who works in the banking industry in New York. His riveting tale of survival is chronicled in “Plucked from the Fire” (Rosedog Books), coauthored with William Hennessey.
Praimnath, born in Guyana, came to America with little money in his pockets in 1981. When he arrived, Praimnath landed a job in the garment industry in Jersey City,New Jersey, where he earned $125 a week. Then he got a job as a file clerk for a bank in downtown Manhattan.
Growing up in Guyana, his mother insisted he attend church, but he rebelled and drifted away during high school. “I woke up one day in America and decided I wanted to be a good guy, whatever ‘good’ means,” he recalls. Then a friend called and invited him to church. “The more I went, the more I liked what I saw,” Praimnath says. He was born-again in 1983.
A few years later he married a pastor’s daughter and started a new career with Fuji Bank. On the side, he helped his father-in-law plant a church in a rough neighborhood of Queens, New York.
Within five years Praimnath advanced to Asst. Vice-President, running all of Fuji Bank’s operations on the 81st floor of the World Trade Center, Tower 2. That floor was immense—approximately one acre square, and almost completely soundproof from the outside.
Praimnath thought he was on top of the world – even planes flew at the same level. When he looked down, everything looked small. Praimnath says most of the people he worked with at Fuji Bank were Buddhists or Shinto; there were only a handful of Christians.
When most people went to lunch, Praimnath sat at his desk with a salad or soup, reading his Bible. He tried to share about Christ when he had opportunities, but most didn’t want to hear.
Critical events transpire
On the morning of Sept. 11, he was riding up the elevator to his office at 8:45 a.m. when Tower One was hit by the first plane. Riding in the elevator, Praimnath didn’t see or hear a thing.
As soon as he laid his briefcase down he began to receive a barrage of phone calls, first from his mother, then his wife and brothers. “Stan, are you OK?” they asked. He said, “Yes, yes, I’m fine,” but none of them told him what happened. He wondered why his family was checking up on him.
When he hung up he glanced out his window for the first time. He was stunned to see huge chunks of fiery debris—“fireballs”—falling from Tower One. The other half of Fuji Bank’s operations were in that tower, so he called there to try to reach his boss. There was no answer.
Praimnath decided it was time to get out, so he jumped in an elevator and headed down to the lobby. He was about to go through the turnstile exit when a security guard stopped him. “Where are you going?” the man asked.
“I’m going home,”Stanley said.
The security guard said: “No, the building is safe and secure, go back to your office.” Soon an intercom was piping in the same message: “Your attention please, ladies and gentlemen, Building 2 is secure. There is no need to evacuate Building 2.”
Praimnath got into the express elevator and in less than a minute was back up to the 81st floor. Several of his co-workers rode in the same elevator. They were laughing and exchanging pleasantries. When he got off that elevator, it was the last time he would see them again.
He walked into his office and the phone rang immediately. It was a woman from Chicago. “Stan, Stan, get out, get out of the building.” He assured the woman he was fine. “But you’re not logged on to the computer,” she said. Stanley still didn’t know a plane hit the first building.
At eye-level with United flight 175
As he assured the woman he was safe, he stood up near his desk, while he held the phone in his hand, and just happened to look toward the Statue of Liberty. Suddenly he saw a huge plane, gray in color, that flew straight at him. “It was coming at me at eye-level contact,” he notes. Praimnath could make out the letter ‘U’ on the tail. It was United flight 175.
“As the plane was getting nearer I could hear a revving sound the engine was making, like the sound a plane makes when it’s about to take off,” Praimnath says. “Quadruple that sound, and that’s the sound I could hear, even in this soundproof building. I can still hear that sound in my head,” he says. “That sound will never go away.”
“I’m standing up looking at this plane getting bigger and nearer,” Praimnath says. “You don’t know how fast your mind is reacting.”
In desperation he cried out to God: “Lord, I can’t do this—you take over,” and he dove under his desk. Praimnath’s Bible still sat on top of the desk. The plane slammed into the building with immense force. The bottom of the wing sliced through his office and stuck in his office door 20 feet away from where he huddled.