Photo Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
As the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks approaches, the remembrances have already begun pouring in. One story is particularly interesting: A woman claims that Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow actually saved her life that fateful morning.
According to a story in The Morton Report, Lara Lundstrom Clarke had a chance encounter with Paltrow on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, which delayed her arrival at the Twin Towers. As a result, Clarke, who was 24 years old and working as an account manager at Baseline Financial Services at the time, was not at her desk on the 77th floor of Tower 2 of the World Trade Center at the time of the attacks.
After rollerblading before work and coming home to shower, Clarke says she dashed out the door and headed for the downtown 1 train to take to lower Manhattan. Pressed for time, she decided to jaywalk across 7th Avenue to get to her subway station.
Clarke then describes what happened next: "It was one of those mornings that felt good, you had a little skip in your step. What the heck -- I always cut across 7th Avenue. Then all of the sudden a silver Mercedes SUV came barreling down towards me. I stopped and they screeched to a halt. Then it developed in to one of those classic who-goes-first situations. It got ridiculous. Then I made eye contact with the Mercedes driver. OMG it was Gwyneth Paltrow. I knew she lived down the street, so it made sense. She waved me across, I crossed and she continued on her way. At least if I was late for work I had a story to tell."
Due to this coincidental encounter, Clarke missed her train and had to wait for the next one. It was 8:47 a.m. when Clarke started up the subway steps into the concourse at the World Trade Center. The first plane hit, causing those below ground to wonder what had happened, if a bomb had exploded. The crowd on the subway steps hustled back downstairs. "It was total chaos being stuck in the basement of a building. All I could think about then was my parents and if I died, what it would do to them," Clarke says. "My heart was racing, I was paralyzed. I couldn't even speak. 'Get me outside, I need to be outside.'"
When she was finally able to exit, Clarke started walking uptown, and heard the second plane hit at 9:02 a.m. She said she looked back and saw her actual office explode. It was only later, at home, that she learned that most of her coworkers had survived, due to the angle of the wing as it sheared through the floor. Only four people out of the staff of 170 died that day.
The jaywalking moment with Paltrow, whose movie Sliding Doors has an eerie similarity to this real-life story, impacted Clarke's life immeasurably. "If I had made that train I would have been at my desk on the 77th floor of 2 World Trade Center," says Lundstrom. And who knows what would have happened?
A publicist for Paltrow, 38, has confirmed the account, adding that Gwyneth is "deeply moved" by the story.