WTC tower survivor speaks in Bartlesville ceremony

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. - Brian Clark was on the 84th floor of the World Trade Center's south tower when the second hijacked plane slammed into the tower six floors below him.

Now eleven years later, on Tuesday evening, this man, one of only four survivors from above the point of impact,  spoke to several hundred people gathered at the Doenges Memorial Stadium for a program honoring current and past members of the United States military to which the public is invited.

The event which began at 6 p.m. offering free hotdogs and musical entertainment until 6:30 p.m. when the program started.

Featured were displays of equipment and information by the various branches of the military, as well as a panel by the Bartlesville History Museum where individuals can sign the names of fallen heroes.

The Bartlesville Blue Star Mothers were on site offering postcards for people to write notes to those currently serving in the military.

A collection area was present for those wanting to donate items toward care packages to be sent to servicemen overseas.

Military personnel were recognized during the program.

During an interview Tuesday with 2NEWS before the ceremony, Clark recounted that day eleven years ago when the towers fell. He recalled the brokerage firm, once 250 employees strong on the 84 th floor.

"We lost 61 people that day and they were people that I had been working with and laughed with, loved for years, he said, saying that to him as a longtime employee of the company, some of those associates were new-comers.

"Nonetheless, they were all valued people and all had a special place in the company and when we lost them it was very very strange that you would go to work one day and tomorrow 61 of them — really a fifth to a quarter of our staff — were gone the very next day."

"The lingering emotion for me in all of this is sadness," he said, saying though he has never expressed any anger. "I don't know why, but the sadness lingers and that comes every year."

Clark told 2NEWS recalled Sept. 11, 2001 as starting out like any other day with his normal hour-and-ten-minute commute from his home in northern New Jersey. Everything was as usual except for the heat.

"It was was unseasonable warm in New York City," he said.

Arriving to the tower, he rode the express elevator up to the 78 th floor, changed elevators, arrived to his office's level, the 84 th floor and began his daily tasks.

At 8:46 p.m. as he was at his keyboard in his office typing away at the keyboard, he heard a load explosion and learned that the north tower got hit from the north side.

"We didn't know what it was, but we went to the north windows and looked up nine floors and saw this ring of fire around the 93 rd floor and very quickly some people started jumping — It was a horrible sight to see."

Clark told 2NEWS he didn't actually see anybody jump as he stayed away from the windows, not wanting to have the memory of people jumping.

"A woman saw somebody jump, she just dissolved into tears, ran back to me and I said 'Susan, come on. Let's get you a little more composed' and I took her to the ladies' room," he said, saying he then went to his office, called his wife and his father to tell them he was okay.

"And 17 minutes later — Boom! Right where I was working", said Clark, saying the second plane had impacted his tower only six floors below. "The terrifying thing was the next 10 seconds when the building kind of swayed to the west. I really did think that the building was going to go over. The motion was so severe."

He said they had experienced the building sway before due to wind, but not the movement of then building then — by six to eight feet.

"But it came back to vertical, but our room had been destroyed. Everything came out of the ceiling, all of the raised flooring. I mean we were a brokerage operation so the raised flooring was all disheveled and random."

Using a flashlight he already had on him, he shone it around the room and gathering up a half dozen people, they started down stairway A.

"Just three floors lower, a woman coming up the stairs said 'Stop, you can't go down. We've got to go higher and get fresh air. There are flames down below.'"

However, during the debate about whether to go up or go down, Clark was distracted by somebody on the 81 st floor screaming for help.

"So as I went sort of sideways through a crack in the wall, an opening in the wall, if you like. I have this very clear memory of all of my associates turning around and going up the stairs and they all died that day."

On the 81 st floor, he found a man buried in the rubble, smoke swirling in the darkness. Once he freed the man, the two descended the stairway.

"I pointed my flashlight down. I just felt like I wanted to try. I didn't see flames but we fought our way through some smoke and a lot of debris and dug our way through and created a hole in the debris if you like down the stairway and we go out of the building with about four minutes to

spare."

When they had gotten a block-and-a-half from the building, the two men turned around and watched as the building collapsed.

"It was like we were invited to watch. So it was a close call and, as I say, we lost 61 of our 250 employees. Now, I feel very fortunate to be here."

"It took eight to 10 seconds to just dissolve in front of us a block-and-a-half away," he said.

Recalling his frame of mind during the events of the day, he told 2NEWS he saw them "objectively."

"It's a very strange thing in the midst of chaos. You don't know. You can't plan for what your brain is going to process. You react to things. My reaction at the time the building came down was very objective. I was not thinking subjectively. I was not thinking of the horror of people being crushed. Somehow I was protected and what I was processing was 'This is unreal. How could that building collapse? It's steel. It doesn't make sense.'"

Clark said he wasn't frozen with terror, even when the white wave of ash rushed at the two men. A nearby church shielded them from the cloud as it exploded up and overhead, leaving a bubble of fresh air — giving the two time to find shelter in nearby building.

"So I can't explain it. I take no credit for how I reacted — just that at that moment I was thinking objectively, not subjectively."

Asked what his message typically is when called upon to speak, he said his message is one of hope.

"People, even after 11 years, seem to be very interested in hearing my account of what happened to me that day and for me it just rolls like a movie in my head. I am happy to do that. I feel like its a bit of an obligation for being a survivor. If I am asked, its the least I can do. I survived. I am alive," he said, saying he does it in gratitude.

"The message that I try to leave people is one of hope. And especially for those people who seem to be struggling with the past. They can't seem to let go of the past.

"I have come to the conclusion that logically, that though there are thousands of unanswerable questions. By very definition they are unanswerable so it's silly to waste time trying to answer them.

"Don't get stuck in the past trying to answer something impossible to answer. So I try to turn people around and focus them forward in the future.

"There is a lot of good living left and if we can help each other and do good deeds going forward, the world will be a better place. Its pretty cliché stuff but cliches are cliches because they're truths."

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