Two men who escaped from the World Trade Center towers one year ago have eerily similar stories. Both are Christians, were born outside of America, followed a light to safety that day, and survived with the help of people they didn't know. And both were on the 81st floor.

One difference between Stanley Praimnath and Sujo John is that though they worked on the same floor, they were in different towers.

Praimnath, a vice president of Fuji Bank, worked in the South Tower. He was born in British Guyana and moved to the U.S. in 1981. His story of surviving the terrorist attacks is featured in the current issue of Christian Reader, a Christianity Today sister publication.

John, who worked for a telecommunications company in the North Tower, was born in Calcutta, India, and came to America in February 2001. He writes about how September 11 changed his life in Do You Know Where You Are Going? (Lantern Books).

The first strike

Most mornings, John and his wife, Mary, rode to work together on the subway since her office was in the Trade Center's South Tower. But fourteen weeks into her first pregnancy, Mary had recently been sleeping in and going to work later.

On September 11, John arrived at work alone at 7:30. Just over an hour later, one of John's colleagues yelled, "It's a plane!" as the first jet smashed into the tower above him. In his book, John writes:

There was a colossal explosion. The windows immediately shattered, causing papers and debris to fly out and be blown into our office. We could feel the building tilting to the left at the force of the impact, and the steel girders that supported all the floors creaked. I could see fireballs shooting out of the building.

John landed on the floor and prayed. He soon joined coworkers rushing down 81 flights of stairs.

Meanwhile in the South Tower, Praimnath heard of "an incident" in the other building and took the express elevator to the lobby. Security guards said all was well and told him to return to his office.

The South Tower is hit

Back on the 81st floor, Praimnath received a call from a woman in Chicago watching the North Tower burn on TV. After only seconds, Praimnath spotted a plane heading toward his office window.

Diving under his desk, he prayed. When he eventually stood he couldn't see a thing. Then, a small light appeared through the war zone of rubble and smoke. Thinking it must be his guardian angel, he called to it. A voice answered, "Come toward the light, I am here to help you."

Praimnath fought his way through fallen walls of the 82nd floor to reach Brian Clark, a brokerage executive with a flashlight. They embraced and ran down the stairs.

In the North Tower, John stopped his descent at the 53rd floor to use a land-based phone to call his wife's cell. (His own cell had stopped working.) She could not be reached.

Firefighters reached John and forced him to leave the building. As he ran down the escalator to the ground floor, John looked out a bank of windows to see a devastating scene in the courtyard.

About this same time, Praimnath and Clark entered the courtyard and ran to Trinity Lutheran Church two blocks away. There, Praimnath turned back in horror to look at the South Tower.

As John walked out of the North Tower, he heard a massive explosion. He looked up to see the other building collapsing. He huddled with a small group in the courtyard, and they prayed as ash fell around them.

In the confusion, John was separated from the group and lay face down on the ground. After what seemed to be minutes, he stood but could see only inches in front of him. When the thick soot cleared slightly, he saw that those he had been praying with were dead.

John searched the wreckage for someone alive. He found an FBI agent in a blue vest and asked him if he was a Christian. He was, and they prayed together. Then, a red light flashed in the distance through the cloudy smoke. Holding hands, the two men ran toward it. It was attached to a smashed ambulance on the street.

John kept running after reaching the rescue vehicle, but the FBI agent returned to the WTC to save others. Only minutes later, John watched the North Tower fall. Chased by clouds of dust, he ran north on Broadway. Hours later, his cell phone rang. It was his wife. Her train had been late.

Not alone in the towers

Both John and Praimnath have told their stories countless times in the last year, not only as harrowing tales of survival but as testimony.

"I believe the Lord's hand saved me that day," Praimnath told Christian Reader. "My Lord has some unfinished tasks for me."

Praimnath has packed away the clothes he wore that day in case his faith ever waivers. Looking at them again, he says, will remind him of God's deliverance.

In Do You Know Where You Are Going?, John admits that at times on September 11, he doubted God. "I knew [he] was in control," he writes. "But every time I tried to cling to a sense that everything was going to be all right, my human frailty overwhelmed my efforts to place my trust in God, and I gave up hope."

When the South tower collapsed overhead, John says he thought he needed more time to be ready. He needed to make sure he was going to heaven when he died. As these doubts rushed through him, the peace of God quelled his questions and his sadness.

"Suddenly, I felt the Spirit of God speaking to my heart, telling me that with faith in God through Jesus Christ I would be resting with him in heaven," John writes. "I was in the center of God's will, and so had nothing to fear."

Todd Hertz is assistant online editor of Christianity Today.