Stanley Praimnath was one of 18 people who survived the 9/11 attacks who was at or above the point of impact in the South Tower. (WRDW-TV / Sept. 4, 2011)
News 12 at 11 o'clock / Sunday, Sept. 4, 2011
NEW ELLENTON, S.C. -- It was a special sermon at Grace Covenant Church of God in New Ellenton.
"In 2002, I came here and visited this church, and I was truly blessed by the warmth of the pastor and the congregation," said Stanley Praimnath.
This time he returned only days away from the 10th anniversary of the events that changed the world.
"A lot has changed over the past 10 years," he said.
Praimnath is an investment banker and was inside the South Tower of the World Trade Center on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
"I was in the elevator going up when the first building was hit, and I didn't have a clue what happened. Got to the office, and what I saw from an angle, towards my right, was fireballs coming down from the sky," he said.
He and others tried to get out of their building, but they were told to go back, because the South Tower was safe at that point. They nervously waited in that tower as panic spread around the other one.
"I just happened to raise my head, looking toward the south direction toward the Statue of Liberty. What I saw was a giant aircraft bearing down on me -- eye-level eye contact," he recalled.
He dove under his desk as the plane ripped through.
"All the furniture was mangled. The only desk that stood firm was one that I was hiding under; my Bible was on top of that desk," he said.
Cut and bruised, Praimnath figured his life was almost over. He said a guardian angel, in form of another survivor, saved him. The only thing in the way was a Sheetrock wall.
"And I looked at this wall, and this wall didn't possess a challenge anymore. I folded a fist as tightly as I could, and I punched, and my fist passed right through that Sheetrock wall," he said.
The other survivor, Brian Clark, pulled him through the hole. They braced to each other and began the journey down 81 flights of stairs.
Once they reached the lobby, they raced toward Trinity Church. Firefighters, police officers, and EMTs swarmed toward the building as they ran from it. They got to the church, and Praimnath glanced back.
"You can see that building start shaking. You can feel it, and the building starts to implode," he said. "One floor after the other after the other."
With the events now 10 years behind him, Praimnath hopes the people in New Ellenton and across the nation will remember the only benefit from that day -- the unity that came afterward.
"We are people who might be different in color and different in speech, but we are Americans, and Americans don't give up. We've got a heart. And our goal, our aim is going forward and build and be better," he said.
When Praimnath finally got home on that painful day, his wife and two daughters didn't even recognize him. When they finally did, they really couldn't believe it.
He told the congregation that his young daughter said she would have killed herself if he didn't come home; it moved him to tears just thinking back to that day 10 years later.
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