Building on Ground Zero

A Survivor's Story

Brian Clark, an executive vice president at Euro Brokers, a brokerage firm that had offices on the 84th floor of 2 World Trade Center, was one of only a few people to escape either tower from above the floors where the planes struck. In this interview for the NOVA program "Why the Towers Fell," assistant producer Matt Barrett simply let the camera roll as Clark told his astounding tale. Only slightly edited for clarity here, the interview reveals, in vividly recalled detail, how snap decisions, gut instinct, and a touch of luck worked together in Clark's favor and that of the man whose life he saved.


Like any normal day I arrived at about 7:15 in the morning. That particular day was more or less flawless weather—beautiful day, blue sky. I don't remember the temperature, but we had an unseasonably warm fall, and I'm assuming that that day was equally pleasant.

I have been at Euro Brokers for over 29 years now. I started as a trainee broker in 1973, and for the last 14 or 15 years I've been in management. Most recently my title's been Executive Vice President. I've been one of several people who manage the company. One minor responsibility I had that turned out to be significant that day, however, was I was one of about eight or 10 people that had volunteered to be a fire marshal.

The first plane

As I said, I arrived about 7:15 and got my morning coffee. I went about my normal chores. I don't really recall any extraordinary events that morning until 8:46 and change, when, sitting with my back to the west wall—I had a private office, with my desk facing my door and my back to the window—I heard an enormous thump. I didn't feel any vibration, but there was a noticeable sound like a boom or thump, and the lights buzzed for a second. My eyes jerked up to look at my overhead lights.

“The entire airspace behind me was filled with flame.”

There was suddenly this glare, and my attention was immediately caught. I spun my head around, and the entire airspace behind me was filled with flame. I didn't know what it was at the time, but it was the fuel from the first jet hitting the North Tower that had gone right through that tower and out over the airspace, south of Tower One, the North Tower. That same airspace was west of the South Tower, the tower I was in on the 84th floor.

My immediate thought was there had been an explosion one or two floors above our office. That's what I thought had happened in that first instant. Being one of the fire marshals, I was equipped with a whistle and flashlight in my office. I jumped up, grabbed them, put the whistle around my neck, and more or less yelled, "Get out! Everybody get out!" This all took me five seconds. When I looked behind me out the window, the flames were all gone, and thousands of papers were just fluttering in the air, the edges of which were all on fire. It was like flaming confetti. Very strange.

I should have realized but didn't realize at the time that the area that all this was happening in was so huge. But I still wasn't computing that in my mind; still it was two floors up in my mind. So I ran out of my office, just a yard or two into an area where some accountants sit, and other people in offices, and I said, "Come on, let's go, there has been an explosion," and I started to get people off the floor.

Now, we are a trading operation. Our customers are not individuals, but large financial trading institutions around the world, like a Barclay's Bank or the Royal Bank of Canada. So we have in our trading floor many television sets tuned to financial news information. Well, all of these stations cut away to their news departments, and there were these breaking news stories that an airplane had hit the World Trade Center. The story developed literally within minutes, and we understood fairly soon, I would say within three or four minutes, that an airliner had hit One World Trade Center. At least that's my recollection of the timeframe.

Well, we knew now that the damage had been done to Tower One, not our Tower, so we relaxed a little bit about evacuation. Nonetheless, many people in the first minute had bolted for the stairs and were on their way down. Good news in retrospect, but at the time it was like, Oh boy, I guess we don't have to leave. The TV sets were telling us, and now there were photographs of One World Trade Center and the smoke coming out of the upper floors, I think the 92nd floor and above. The fire marshals like myself were content to let people go or stay. Really, in a way, it didn't matter.

I called my wife and told her, "You know, you won't believe this but Tower One has been hit. We are fine where we are. Relax, turn on the TV, there is a developing story there, find out what's happening."

The announcement

At about five minutes to nine there was an announcement by the Port Authority within our building. First the strobe lights flashed, as they did during their normal fire drills. The alarm system gave a little bit of a whoop whoop, you know, to alert you to an announcement about to be made. Then the very familiar voice, the one we heard all the time, came over the system and said, "Building Two is secure. There is no need to evacuate Building Two. If you are in the midst of evacuation, you may return to your office by using the re-entry doors on the re-entry floors and the elevators to return to your office. Repeat, Building Two is secure...."

“‘Building Two is secure. There is no need to evacuate Building Two.’”

And they went through the whole story again. So this was reinforcement that there was no need to evacuate. I am strictly guessing but I would think we were perhaps down to about 25 people left on our floor at the time of the announcement. (I had gone for a walk through our office.) Now, as I say, the pressure was off, and there wasn't a panic, although we were greatly concerned about what was going on in Tower One.

If you went to the north wall windows, you could look up and see the flames and the smoke and regrettably people now starting to jump, because of heat, smoke, or whatever it was. I'm only telling this secondhand because I personally could not take myself to the window to view that. I just didn't want that image burned in my brain, and I'm forever grateful that I didn't go and take in that sight.

One girl in particular—Susan her name was—turned from the window when she noticed the first person (for her) jump. She hadn't noticed it before, and she spun around in tears almost frantically, ran to me, and said "Oh, Brian, it's terrible. People are dying." I said, "Susan, it's a terrible tragedy," and I put my arms around her, and I said "Come on, let's get you more composed," and we walked out of the trading floor down the hall. In the building the center core was crossed hallways. There was a north-south hallway and an east-west hallway. I walked with her from the east side through the center core to the west side, where the ladies room was, and she went into the ladies room. (Regrettably, Susan did not survive the eventual collapse of the building.)

The second plane

I continued on to the west side near my office. I was fairly near the windows talking with two or three people, including especially Bobby Coll. I was looking him in the eye having a conversation with him when at apparently 9:03—I didn't check my watch—the second plane hit the south side of our building at approximately the 78th, 79th, and 80th floors. Our room fell apart at that moment, a complete destruction without an explosion—very strange things. The lights went out, but we were near the window so there was daylight. Again, there was this sort of thump, this explosion without fire and flame, a very strange sensation.

“I just felt in my heart, Oh my gosh, we are going over.

There was a twist, if you like, to the building when it got hit, and therefore the plane's hitting explained some things to me later, like why the ceiling fell apart. The ceiling tiles and some of the brackets and so on fell; some air conditioning ducts, speakers, cables, and things like that that were in the ceiling fell. I seem to have a sense that some of the floor tiles even buckled a bit or were moved. Some of the walls, I recall vaguely, were actually torn in a jagged direction rather than up and down. Again perhaps explained by the torque, some of the door frames popped out of the wall and partially fell or fully fell.

For seven to 10 seconds there was this enormous sway in the building. It was one way, and I just felt in my heart, Oh my gosh, we are going over. That's what it felt like. Now, on windy days prior to that there was a little bit of a sway to the building. You got used to it; you didn't notice it. The window blinds would go clack clack as they swung. As I said, for a good seven to ten seconds I thought it was over—horrible feeling—but then the building righted itself. It didn't sway back and forth; it just went one way, it seemed, and then back, and we were stable again.

I was looking at Bobby Coll square in the eyes, and we knew in an instant that it was terrorism. I mean, there wasn't for sure terrorism on people's minds when the first building had been hit. Was it pilot error? Was it instrument error? Or just a one-off suicide? Horrible as it was, you didn't know for certain that it was terrorism. But when the second building got hit you instantly calculated the two of them: terrorism.

The evacuation

So we knew we were in a difficult situation at that point in time. I fortunately had a flashlight with me, and I'm glad I did. I switched it on, and we started out of the room. Our room was not black with smoke but sort of white with chalky construction dust. It was incredibly dusty and dirty as we made our way out of the room and over some debris that had fallen from the ceiling and so on past the ladies room where I had taken Susan maybe 10 minutes earlier, and we went to this center core, this crossroads in the middle of the building.

At that point, had we gone three or four yards straight ahead to the east, we would have come to Stairway B. I have no idea what condition it was in because we didn't know what had happened, we didn't know where this plane had hit, we didn't know if it was a plane, we didn't know anything other than suddenly we were in chaos and our building had been hit. I could have turned right three yards to Stairway C, closer to the impact point. I had no idea what condition that stairway was in. Miraculously, at random I turned left to Stairway A, which on the floor plate is the farthest from where the impact really was.

“‘Help! Help! I'm buried. I can't breathe. Is anybody there?’”

So we started down that stairway. We only went three floors. There was a group of seven of us, myself and six others. I remember some of the names. Now, I know everybody at Euro Brokers, but in my mind somehow I blanked out who those other grey shapes were; they were farther up the stairs a bit, not in the light of the flashlight. I do remember Bobby Coll, Kevin York, David Vera, and Ron DiFrancesco.

We met two people that had come up from the 80th floor, a heavy-set woman and by comparison a rather frail male companion of hers, a workmate. She was saying from the landing below, "Stop, stop you've got to go up," and she labored up to join us, moving very slowly; she was such a big woman. She said, "You've got to go up. You can't go down. There is too much smoke and flames below." I had my flashlight, and I was shining it in each face as people made comments, and an argument ensued as to what we should do.

The rescue

At the same moment as this argument was going on I heard bang, bang, bang, thump, thump, thump, "Help! Help! I'm buried. I can't breathe. Is anybody there? Can you help me?," a strange voice coming from within the 81st floor. I heard this voice, and it caused me to lose concentration in this argument that was going on about whether to head up or down. I grabbed Ron by the sleeve, and I said "Come on, Ron. Let's get this fellow."

The fire escape door had blown away from the wall a bit, but we were able to push the dry wall back and step between the door frame and the dry wall, squeeze onto the 81st floor, which was in darkness, but again I had my flashlight. I scanned the room, and I said, "Who's there? Where are you?" He said, "Oh, I can see your light."

What my light beam was showing me was similar to being on a very foggy road at night, because it was white dust everywhere. He said, "No, to the right ... to the left ..." In about a minute, Ron and I located his voice. He said, "Can you see my hand?" His hand was sticking out of the wall, or not the wall but this area where he was covered and blocked by some debris. He was waving his hand frantically, and my light picked up his hand. I said, "Okay, see you now."

And at that moment my associate Ron who came down with me was overcome with smoke. He had a gym bag or a briefcase with him, and he was sort of putting it in front of his face in an attempt to filter the air. It clearly wasn't working, and Ron, with eyes shut, backed off the floor. He was almost completely overcome by the smoke.

Again, miraculously, I was in a bubble. I was breathing fine. I was squinting a bit, but I could work, and I struggled to get debris away from Stanley—I found out later his name was Stanley Praimnath; he worked at Fuji Bank.

We got to the point I couldn't do any more work from my side, and I said, "You've got to jump. You've got to get over this last barrier." Well, he jumped once and fell back down. I said, "Come on, you've got to do this. It's the only way out." I reached in again, and Stanley jumped, and I got him by the collar or the shoulder or somewhere there. He said later that I just pulled him up like Superman. I don't remember having this extraordinary strength, but he says it really did happen that way. I pulled him out and onto me, and we fell in a heap and embraced. It was an exciting moment, it really was.

“‘I had to see my wife. I had to see my kids at all costs.’”

Now, Ron had gone. He had gone back to the stairway and was not there when we got back to the stairs. The other people had gone up as I left with Ron to go in on the 81st floor. I had this vision of Bobby Coll and Kevin York each with a hand under each elbow of this heavy-set woman starting to ascend the stairs, saying things like, "Come on. We are in this together. We will help you. Relax, we'll be with you." And up they went. And Dave Vera, who had a walkie-talkie, started back up the stairs as well. That's the last I saw of those people.

Now, I didn't know whether Ron had gone up or down, I assumed down because he was with me going down. I learned later that Ron went up; in fact, he went all the way up to the 91st floor. He later told me that he lay on the floor there for 10 minutes until he panicked. He told me, "I had to see my wife. I had to see my kids at all costs. I was gonna make it out." And he went to the stairway and went all the way down, following me, I guess, by five to seven minutes, because I took my time going down the stairway. It was not intentional; it was just that some events happened.

The descent

So Stanley and I went back to the stairs on the 81st floor, and we began down. The first five floors were difficult, because in certain areas dry wall had been blown off the wall and was lying propped up against the railing. We had to move it, shove it to the side. The sprinkler system had turned on and had started to do something, but it wasn't doing its job as it should, so there was water sloshing down the stairways. It was dark.

Now, the stairways didn't go straight down. There was one particular area around the 78th floor, I think, where you actually came to some strange twists. So we had to figure that out in the darkness, but we made some fortunate decisions. Around the 74th floor, I would say, we broke into what I call fresh air. The lights were on. It was normal conditions. There was not a problem breathing, and there was nobody there, not a soul, just Stanley and me. We were starting to have normal conversation. He was cut and bruised a bit, but he was fine conversing. I think he had his shirt off; he was just in his undershirt.

We continued on down. On the 68th floor, we met one man walking up. The man's name was Jose Marrero. He worked for Euro Brokers for many years. He worked in our security department, and he was also one of our fire marshals. Jose, I learned later, had been with many people of ours all the way down into the 30s and 40s on the stairway and figured, I guess, that he had done his job. Then he heard Dave Vera, who had started down with me, on his walkie-talkie saying that he needed help; he was helping people, could he get help.

“He was tending to a Caucasian male lying flat on the floor moaning in pain, with massive head wounds.”

So Jose, hero that he was, was walking up, perspiring, carrying his walkie-talkie. He said, "Oh, I can hear Dave above. I'm gonna help." I said, "Jose, Dave's a big boy, he can get out. We've just come through hell to get here. Come on down with us." "No, no, no," he said. "I'll be fine. I can help." Then Jose kept marching up. Jose was about 35 years old and quite fit, but when I passed him he was understandably laboring to climb the stairs. But he kept going. I don't know how high he got or what he found.

Stanley and I continued down until we got to the 44th floor—straight shot, saw nobody. On the 44th floor we went off, because I knew that was one of the sky lobbies in the Trade Center. There were sky lobbies on the 44th and 78th floors. Conditions on the 44th floor were normal other than there was nobody there, except for one—I'm guessing at his age—middle 60s, maybe 70s even Port Authority security guard who was tending to a Caucasian male lying flat on the floor moaning in pain, with massive head wounds. The security guard was saying, "I need help. My phones don't work, but I need medical attention for this man. I'll stay with him, I'll tend him, but you must promise to get help as soon as you can telephone somebody." Stanley and I said "okay" and went back to the stair.

The conference room

We went down again. Nobody on the stairway at all. Easy travel, just the two of us. Lights on, fresh air all the way down to the 31st floor, where we went in at random and got into somebody's office. I don't know whether it was an advertising agency or a lawyer's office; I don't know whose it was. We got into their conference room, and each grabbed a phone.

I called my wife to tell her here's where I am; we'll have this great celebration at home. I hadn't talked to her since about five to nine, I suppose, and this was about 20 to 10. My wife had turned on the TV, and the first thing she had seen was the second plane slam into our building. So she had no idea where I was for that 45-minute stretch. I told her I was fine. Stanley talked to his wife, told her similar news.

I then called 9-1-1—coincidence 9/11—and was put on hold. This was a disturbing thing at the time. I got ahold of them right away and told them about this fellow on the 44th floor that needed medical attention, but they put me on hold. They said, "You must tell your story to somebody higher up the chain" and clicked me off. I'd wait until somebody came on, I'd recite the story, and "Oh, just a minute. You must tell somebody else." I mean, there was something clearly odd about what was going on there. They were answering the phone in a hurry, and I understand now they were completely overwhelmed at the time.

I was asked for a third time to tell somebody else my story, and I just laid down the law. I said, "No. I have given you the details. Here they are one more time," and I wouldn't let that person off the phone. I said, "I'm gonna tell you this once, and then I'm hanging up." I went through the details about the 44th floor, man on the ground, need a medic, need a stretcher, goodbye." I put down the phone. I don't feel badly about that but it was a strange, strange event in the midst of this whole story. We were probably in that conference room for four minutes I would think, and then it was back to the stairs.

The ground floor

Now, bear in mind we had no idea that the building was about to fall. We were taking our time. In fact, I said to Stanley at one point, "Hey, let's not go too fast here. I'd hate to break an ankle and have to walk 30 floors or something." So we took our time getting down. We went all the way down, again with nobody on the stairs, not firemen coming up, nobody else evacuating. So all the way down to the Plaza level. We came out by what's known as the "half-price ticket booth," where they sold theater tickets for half price. This was on the north side of the South Tower facing the Plaza.

“It looked like it had been deserted for 100 years, and we had just discovered it.”

We came out and stared, awestruck. What we looked at was normally a flowing fountain, vendors with their wagons, business people coming to and from the building, tourists everywhere. It was a beautiful people place, yet this area, several acres I'm sure, was dead; it was a moonscape. It looked like it had been deserted for 100 years, and we had just discovered it.

It was surreal, the whole thing was surreal. We stared at it for 20 or 30 seconds with our jaws dropped, saying, "What is happening here, this is very strange." We went down an escalator that wasn't working—all electricity was off, other than the emergency electricity, I guess, in the stairway—and through some revolving doors, because the women at the bottom of the escalator said to us, "If you're gonna leave the building you have to go this way, through there, and go down to the Victoria Secret shop, turn right, and exit by the Sam Goody store."

We knew where that was, so we walked very casually down that hallway, down the second hallway, and we were passing firemen and policemen who were going about their business, walking normal speeds. I didn't sense there was panic. It looked like they were under control, doing their job. There were other evacuees like Stanley and me, but there was no running or crowds. It was more or less deserted.

The street

We got out to the south exit of Four World Trade Center on the southeast corner of the complex. Firemen and policemen stood at the door. One said, "Whoa, wait a minute fellows, if you are gonna cross Liberty Street, you had better go for it. There is debris falling from above." I recall saying, "Should I look up?" He said, "Well, I wouldn't. Just go for it."

I couldn't make myself do that. I crept out under the eaves, and I cautioned a look up this way and that way, and I said, "All right, Stanley, I don't see anything coming. Are you ready?" He said, "Yup," and after one more check, I said, "All right, let's go," and we ran across Liberty Street, which is quite wide at that point, several lanes. There was nobody there. It was very much like a demilitarized zone. There was no traffic. There were some emergency vehicles around but certainly no movement and really not very many people; people were noticeably absent.

“That’s when Stanley broke down. He cried to these ministers, ‘This man saved my life.’”

Across the road you could see some people standing in doorways protecting themselves from anything that might have been falling. We ran across the street, past the fire hall, which is on the corner, and up another block and caught our breath. There was a deli owner there. I said, "Have you got any water?" He went in and just handed us this water in bottles and said, "Here you go." I said, "Thank you." He said, "In fact, here is a breakfast platter. I don't think anybody is going to be picking that up." And he gave me this great tray with some fresh fruit on it and some sweet rolls. He was a very generous fellow at the time considering the conditions.

I carried this with me another block to the west side of Trinity Church, where we met a couple of ministers. That's when Stanley broke down. He cried to these ministers, "This man saved my life." He completely broke down. I was overcome with emotion as well, and I said, "You know, Stanley, you may think I saved your life but I think you saved my life, too. You got me out of that argument as to whether I should go up or go down. I'm here, and I'm fine, and it's because of your voice in the darkness that I made it." We embraced, and the ministers had a quick prayer, and one of them said, "You know, the church is open if you would like to go in there."

The collapse

Stanley and I looked at each other, and we nodded and said, "All right, let's do that." So we walked to the south side of Trinity Church, which is a street that slopes up. As we walked up it we got higher and higher, and with the wall in relation to us going lower, we could now turn around and see the World Trade Center. We grabbed onto the fence railing of the cemetery and looked through the grate up at the Trade Center, and Stanley said to me, "You know, I think those buildings could go down." I said, "There is no way. Those are steel structures. That's furniture and paper and carpeting and draperies and things like that that are burning." But I didn't finish the sentence when Tower Two started to slide down.

I would say that we'd been out of the building maybe five minutes when the building collapsed. It disappeared into its own dust. What I thought had happened at that instant was only the top third or quarter of the building down to the fire line had collapsed. It was a horrible feeling. I mean, our whole escape was horrible when it was happening, but you at least thought people had a chance—until that moment. Then I knew that certainly in the top quarter of the tower there was no chance. We just stared at it in awe, not realizing what was happening completely.

We stared, watching, with nobody running or anything initially. But then this great tsunami of dust came over the church. Everybody looked up, and, as in a disaster movie, everybody started running in fear of the debris and dust that might be in there. But I knew there was nothing solid that was going to harm me, that the building hadn't fallen over. I knew that. But you didn't want to breathe the junk that was in there, so we ran down Broadway to 42 Broadway. We went into that building as the dust and smoke was catching up to our backsides. We got into that lobby with many other people, strangers doing the same thing. The air was clean in there, and people were milling around.

“I yelled and looked and walked back and forth but he was gone.”

I realized then that I was still carrying the silly fruit platter, so I plumped that down on the reception desk there, and people started digging into it. It was an odd thing that I didn't just chuck it aside when I was running. I wasn't even aware that I was carrying it.

We stayed for at least half an hour, I suppose. The ash settled. We went out the east side of that building, which was onto New Street. It was like a winter's day, grey sky. I suppose it was a quarter of an inch of dust and ash everywhere, but it looked like freshly fallen fine snow. We walked in amazement down the street. I was still thinking, of course, that only the top part of the tower had slid off or slid into itself or something like that. No cell phones, no land lines were working. There was no way to communicate with anybody by telephone.

We wandered over to the east side of Manhattan, the East River. Stanley gave me his business card, and thank goodness he did, because in the crowd that was walking, he and I suddenly got parted. He just disappeared into the crowd. I yelled and looked and walked back and forth but he was gone. I was very grateful I had his business card at that point, because I knew that he was real. My initial thought was, Whoa, this was an angel; this didn't happen. It was a strange feeling that slipped over me. But, hey, I had his business card, so I knew he was real.

The ferry

I wandered up FDR Drive on the east side of the island, thinking I was going to have to walk to mid-town to somehow get home to northern New Jersey where I live. But in this fog, in this white, wintry day, I heard someone on a bullhorn, "Next ferry for Jersey City." That's strange, I thought. I didn't even know there were ferries over here. Well, what the ferry company had done was reroute their ferries to the east side of the island; there's a pier over there, Pier 11. I thought, This is wonderful.

I jumped on that ferry. They certainly weren't charging. We sailed around the southern tip of Manhattan, up the Hudson River, and as we got parallel to the World Trade Center—the wind was blowing from north to south that day—it was then that I and many other people realized for the first time that both towers were completely down.

“This building I had worked in for 27 years was gone.”

I also realized that the first hint that I'd had of the second tower, that is, Tower One, coming down was when I had gotten on that ferry 15 minutes earlier, because a black cloud had enveloped the boat as I was getting on it. It was noticeable that with the South Tower, the one that fell first, the ensuing ash was white and grey, whereas with the second tower that fell, the North Tower, it was black. Now, if that was because it burned longer or what I don't know, but it was a noticeable difference.

But as we got parallel we could look over and see that both towers were gone. It was just a surreal feeling. Disbelief. How could this happen? Of course, at the time we knew nothing about the planes being hijacked, nothing about the Pentagon, nothing about the plane going down in Pennsylvania, or the FAA getting all planes out of the air. We were completely in the dark. But we could look off to the Trade Center on our right and see that this building I had worked in for 27 years was gone. It was a staggering thought. There was silence. People just couldn't believe it.

The homecoming

We sailed in silence to Harborside in Jersey City and got off the ferry. Well, I ran to the ticket booth. I think I was the first person there. I asked the lady if I could use the phone, and she said, "Absolutely." I called my wife, and I could hear the cheers back at home. This is now about 11:15, I think, and my building came down sometime around 10 a.m. The last time I had talked to my wife was at about 20 to 10, so for over an hour and a half she had no idea where I was. Certainly for an hour and 15 minutes she had seen the tower down and was quite beside herself.

Fortunately, the house was full of people. My wife, Dianne, had some neighbors there, members of our church, our minister. My older son, his wife and three children were there, along with my older daughter and my younger son and his fiancé. My youngest daughter is at school in Toronto, so she wasn't there, but it was a house full of people. So when I called, there was a great cheer of relief and just agony relieved.

They wanted to come and get me. I said, "Well, look, I know the traffic in the area will be horrible." So I ended up, with hundreds of other people, walking about a mile north. I was pretty tired at this point, but I walked that mile to the Hoboken train terminal. As I walked into the terminal at five to noon, there was an announcement that the 11:30 train, which had been delayed, would be leaving in five minutes. "All aboard for such and such a station," which was the station I needed to go to. So there was another bit of luck. I got on the train, and it left five minutes later.

I rode all the way to my station, got in my car, and drove the next 15 minutes to my home. When I hit the driveway, I honked the horn awfully loudly many times. There was then a front lawn full of tears and a reunion, and then for days the telephone didn't stop ringing. It was friends from all over the world, media, widows. (You know, we wouldn't call them widows at the time; their husbands were missing.)

Now, Ronnie, who I told you had gone up to the 91st floor and later told me he panicked and went down, when he exited the building it was at the very time when Tower Two was starting to fall. So the moment I was watching the building from Trinity Church was exactly the moment he was coming out of the same place I did, and he was caught in an explosion. He heard the explosion, swirled around, and a fireball was rushing at him from right at the doors where he was about to leave the building.

“We lost 61 friends—dear friends that we worked with and laughed with for years.”

He put his hands up in front of his face and got blown many, many yards across Liberty Street, which I'd run across earlier. He was severely burned in the arm, he had head wounds, cracked vertebrae. He doesn't remember really what happened right after that, but he ended up at St. Vincent's Hospital. They called his wife and told her he was fine, but she was unable to get to him for a couple of days because all the routes and tunnels were closed; they weren't allowing access back into Manhattan.

He didn't remember much those first several days, but he is now back at work on a part-time basis recovering and doing a great job. He's one of the heroes in my mind, because of that determination to get out.

That's my story. It was a long, horrific day, but for me it turned out all right. For many others, I'm deeply saddened that they aren't here. We lost 61 people in total, some of whom I think were either caught in elevators coming back to the office or had come back to the office. We'll never know for sure whether it was a wingtip and flames that caused their demise right on the 84th floor in the east side of the building, where a lot of our traders were, or whether it was smoke when they went higher, or whether it was the collapse of the building. Nonetheless, as I say, we lost 61 friends—dear friends that we worked with and laughed with for years.

Enlarge this image

Brian Clark in his office on the 84th floor of the South Tower, about a year before the attack

Stairway diagram


"It was a long, horrific day, but for me it turned out all right," Clark says. "For many others, I'm deeply saddened that they aren't here."

Editor's Note: Brian Clark serves as chairman of the Euro Brokers Relief Fund, which the company established to look after the families of Euro Brokers employees who died on September 11. This feature originally appeared on NOVA's "Why the Towers Fell" Web site, which has been subsumed into the "Building on Ground Zero" Web site.

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