Brian Clark (September 11 survivor)
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|Born||1947 (age 67–68)
Brian Clark (born 1947) is a Canadian survivor of the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. A Canadian, Clark worked for the American international brokerage firm Euro Brokers, which lost 61 employees that day, nearly a fifth of its New York branch.
Clark was one of only fourteen people in the South Tower to escape from a floor above the plane's impact, escaping from his office on the 84th floor. No one escaped above the impact point in the North Tower. Clark's testimony before the 9/11 Commission, where he detailed problems with the 911 emergency call system, has been widely quoted.
September 11, 2001
First and second impacts
After the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Clark became a volunteer Fire Warden for his floor and was issued a whistle, a reflective vest, and a flashlight by World Trade Center security. On September 11, 2001, when Clark saw a giant fireball in his peripheral vision, coming from the adjacent North Tower at 8:46 a.m., he quickly picked up his issued gear and began evacuation procedures for the staff on his floor of the South Tower. Clark went to his company's trading floor, which stood at the east side of his tower. When he arrived, he saw his co-workers peering out the windows, watching people jump to their death from the adjacent tower. One of Clark's co-workers screamed as she witnessed this and turned away, overwhelmed by the horrific sight. She sought comfort in Clark's arms. He took her to the women's restroom so she could regain her composure. Clark would later credit this act with saving his own life, because it took him away from the east side of his building. At 9:03 a.m., United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the south side of his tower, only a few floors below the spot on the trading floor where Clark had been standing only moments before.
Rescue of Stanley Praimnath
After Flight 175 struck the South Tower, Clark and seven other employees of his floor who had survived the impact gathered together and started to descend Stairwell A. They only made it to the 81st floor when Clark and his group were met by a woman and a man coming up the stairs. The woman blocked their paths and warned them there were flames and smoke further down, and their only option was to try and go up to the roof in hope of being rescued from there.
Clark and his coworkers stopped and debated on the stairwell landing about what to do next; whether to listen to the woman and go up the stairs or to ignore her warnings and go down the stairs. As the group stood there debating their next move, a faint scream for help coming from inside the 81st floor caught Clark's attention. While his group continued to debate what to do, Clark grabbed coworker Ron DiFrancesco and entered the 81st floor to look for the person screaming for help. As Clark and DiFrancesco entered the floor, Clark turned around to observe his coworkers as they started to go up the stairs to the roof instead of down. That group would all lose their lives that day, as access doors to the roof were locked, and there were no plans for helicopter rescues from the roof, as the NYPD deemed it too unsafe to attempt.
As Clark and DiFrancesco made their way to the voice screaming for help, DiFrancesco became overcome with smoke and returned to the stairs, which he would also ascend. Unlike the rest of his coworkers who went up the stairs, however, DiFrancesco would survive. Clark, who later said there was a mysterious bubble of fresh air around him which allowed him to continue the search, made his way to find Fuji Bank employee Stanley Praimnath, who was pinned underneath some debris behind a wall that had stood firm.
Praimnath had initially evacuated the building after the first plane had hit the North Tower but was told to go back inside. Once he had arrived back at his office on the 81st floor, he was on the phone when he noticed the second plane coming right at him. He screamed and jumped under his desk as the plane was hitting the building. After the impact, Praimnath found himself alive under his desk with only minor injuries. When Clark found Praimnath, there was a wall standing between the two, and the only way for Praimnath to escape was to jump up and go over the wall.
Praimnath was unsure he would be able to get over the wall but tried due to Clark's urging. Praimnath made several unsuccessful attempts to climb the wall, on one occasion injuring his hand, but he persisted, and on another attempt Clark was able to hook his arms around Praimnath and help pull him to the other side. The two men fell to the floor with Praimnath landing on top of Clark. Praimnath, excited by being rescued, gave Clark a big kiss and thanked him continuously. Praimnath would later say that he did not know how to thank someone who had saved his life, so he did what felt right and kissed him. The two men then introduced themselves to one another when Praimnath said, "We'll be brothers forever!" Clark replied, "Well, I've never had a brother, so okay." The two men, who both had wounds on their hands, then rubbed their hands against each other and Clark said, "In fact, we'll be blood brothers for life."
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Clark and Praimnath's descent through the floors of the impact was impeded by some debris and smoke, but by moving the debris, they made it passable. All the internal walls were made of light metal framework holding up thick drywall panels. These panels were fractured by the initial impacts and explosions, and their twisting and shaking blocked fire doors and stairwells and then shattered to make much of the dust after the buildings collapsed.
The airliner that struck the North Tower struck it perpendicular to the north face. The impact severed all the elevators and all three stairwells. The airliner that struck the South Tower struck at an angle, severing two stairwells, but it left Stairway A, the one they were using, more or less intact. A few floors below the impact, Clark and Praimnath encountered one of Clark's colleagues, José Marrero, ascending and using a walkie-talkie. Marrero had received a call from another of Clark's colleagues above, David Vera, saying his party needed help. Clark tried to convince his colleague not to ascend, but Marrero insisted on going higher to help Vera and the others. At the Skylobby on the 44th floor, Clark and Praimnath encountered a Port Authority employee who was tending to a severely injured tenant. The P.A. employee told them that all the phones were out on that floor. He asked them, when they had access to a working phone, to have someone send an EMT to care for this injured tenant.
The phones were working in Oppenheimer's offices on the 31st floor. Clark was on the telephone for over three minutes and talked to three different people before his 911 call was understood. This call might have been the only chance for rescue workers to learn that there was a clear stairwell that the several hundred people trapped above the impact could try to use to escape. Clark described how he and Praimnath did not feel a sense of urgency, and before calling 911 they each made one brief personal call.
At 9:55 am, they got to the ground floor where there were rescue workers. One advised them to run once they exited onto Liberty Street, at the southeast corner of the complex. At 9:56 am, Clark and Praimnath ran out of the World Trade Center complex. Clark described how, when they had gotten about two blocks away, Praimnath told him he thought the buildings were going to go down. Clark was skeptical, repeating how solidly built the towers were, but he did not finish his sentence before the South Tower (Tower Two) started to collapse. Clark and Praimnath had left the South Tower just four minutes before it collapsed; they were two of the last 25 people to exit the building; Clark was number 22. Only two other people exited the South Tower after Clark and Praimnath.
Praimnath thanked Clark for saving his life. Clark, in turn, also thanked Praimnath since he felt that the act of leaving his group and freeing Praimnath drew him out of a debate that might have ended with his joining the others who went up to their deaths. His Euro Brokers colleague, Ron DiFrancesco, who had initially turned around because of the smoke, mustered the strength to resume the descent and was one of the last people to escape the South Tower before its collapse; he awoke three days later in hospital, suffering from extensive burns and a head laceration. They were among only four people who managed to escape from above the impact zone in Tower 2. Richard Fern, a Euro Brokers IT manager, was the fourth.
An additional fourteen escaped from the impact zone itself, mostly from the upper sky lobby at the 78th floor, which bore the brunt of the impact and left scores dead. Sixty-one of Clark's co-workers were killed in the incident. Clark was later appointed by his company's management to be President of the Euro Brokers Relief Fund, created to help take financial care of the families of those who were lost. He retired in 2006, a year after Euro Brokers merged with another company.
In popular culture
- Praimnath's and others' stories were told on the BBC docudrama 9/11: The Twin Towers (2006, a.k.a. Inside the Twin Towers).
- His story is also chronicled on the documentary United by 9/11 (2006). The dramatization shows Praimnath as having an office near the center, but in reality he had a southwest office.
- "Canadian survived 9/11 attacks thanks to instinct, flashlight". CBC News. September 11, 2006.
- Samuel Bruchey (March 31, 2006). "Family hears son's WTC 911 calls". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- "Raw emotion marks 9/11 commission hearing: Police, fire chiefs grilled by panelists, booed by families". MSNBC. May 18, 2004. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- "9/11 Calls Reveal Confusion: Dispatchers on Recordings Seem Unsure How to Instruct People Stranded in Twin Towers". ABC News. April 1, 2006. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- Pam Fessler, Melissa Block (May 18, 2004). "Sept. 11 Panel Focuses on Confusion in New York". All Things Considered,. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- York, New (August 18, 2002). "Distant voices, still lives, 08:00-09:35". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- Michael Weissenstein (May 18, 2004). "9/11 Commission Cites Communication Flaws". Associated Press. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- "9/11 Commission Cites Communication Flaws Among Rescuers". NewsMax. May 18, 2004. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- "A Survivor's Story". PBS Nova. Archived from the original on 2011-04-01. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- Thomas Meyer, José García Morales (2005). Reality, truth and evil: facts, questions and perspectives on September 11, 2001. Temple Lodge Publishing. pp. 118–119. ISBN 978-1-902636-66-5. Retrieved 2011-04-01.
- John F. Dovidio (2006). The social psychology of prosocial behavior. Routledge. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-8058-4935-6. Retrieved 2011-04-01.
Other ordinary citizens simply rose to the occasion. Brian Clark, a vice-president for a brokerage firm, heard someone call for help as he struggled down the stairway and found Stanley Prainmath trapped behind a pile of heavy debris.
- Ron Hutchcraft (2007). A Life That Matters: Making the Greatest Possible Difference with the Rest ... Moody Publishers. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-8024-3649-8. Retrieved 2011-04-01.
Meanwhile, Brian Clark had just made it as far as the stairwell outside the 81st floor where he heard Stanley's cries for help. In spite of his vulnerability to dust and smoke because of his asthma and allergies, the broker entered that floor and went to work to free the man trapped in the rubble.
- Laurence Gonzales (2003). Deep survival: who lives, who dies, and why : true stories of miraculous ... W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 76, 172. ISBN 978-0-393-05276-3. Retrieved 2011-04-01.
- Torrey AndersonSchoepe (2011-08-26). "Final survivor of south tower collapse struggles with scars of 9/11". Yahoo! News.
- Robert Kolker (August 27, 2011). "The Encyclopedia of 9/11: Stairwell A: The only way out". New York.
- "Inside the Twin Towers". Youtube. 2006.
- "United by 9/11 (2006)". Hulu. 2006.
- Peter Cheney (March 13, 2002). "'Teflon man' moves on and finds new joys in life". Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on 2007-03-05. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- Dennis Cauchon (December 19, 2001). "Four survived by ignoring words of advice". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- "9/11: What Really Happened". CNN. September 11, 2002. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- "Four Above WTC Crash Zone Tell Stories". CNN. September 7, 2002. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- Christina Lopes (September 6, 2002). "A miraculous descent". CTV News. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- Olivia Barker (September 9, 2006). "Families created Tribute Center out of love". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- Michael Okwu (September 9, 2002). "An improbable escape: Two men defy odds and find a way out of the WTC". CNN. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- "Brian Clark's story: A high rise disaster survivor". CBC. October 24, 2001. Archived from the original on 2007-04-12. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- Alison Smith. "Interview with Brian Clark". CBC. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- "Canadian survived attacks with help of instinct and a flashlight". CBC. September 11, 2006. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- "Complete 911 Timeline: World Trade Center Investigation". Cooperative Research. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- Deborah Amos, Catherine Winter. "Witnesses to Terror: The 9/11 Hearings". American Radio Works. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- Catherine Winter. "The Response on the Ground". American Radio Works. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- Jim Dwyer (May 19, 2004). "Surprising and Important Ways New York Was Unprepared for Disaster". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- "The Fall of the World Trade Center". BBC. March 7, 2002. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- "Inferno Below". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. September 10, 2006. Retrieved 2011-04-06.
- "NOTES: 9 Heroism and Horror". Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- "Zero". Archived from the original on 2007-05-28. Retrieved 2007-08-05.