Of all the days to be late for work, this was the one.
Lara Lundstrom Clarke was a 24-year-old financial services professional who worked on the 77th floor of tower 2 at the World Trade Center. And on September 11, 2001, Clarke couldn't get to the office on time — thanks to a chance encounter with Gwyneth Paltrow.
After a quick pre-work rollerblade by the Hudson River, Greenwich Village resident Clarke was rushing to catch her subway train, and jaywalked across 7th Avenue towards her station.
"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," Clarke tells the Morton Report. "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 into 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," Clarke reveals of the Oscar-winning actress, now 37.
At the time, Paltrow and Clarke both lived in the posh downtown area. "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."
But when Clarke rushed downstairs to catch her train, the doors had slammed shut, hurtling downtown out of the station. (The scene mirrored Paltrow's film Sliding Doors, in which a missed subway train dramatically changes her character's life.)
"At that time I was annoyed at everything that had made me late that day, including Gwyneth Paltrow," Clarke admits.
When Clarke caught the next train and got out at her stop by the WTC, it was 8:47 a.m. — and it was "total chaos" in the subway station.
Finally, Clarke got above ground, and saw the destruction. "I looked up and there was a big gaping hole in the World Trade Center…That was the worst thing I've ever seen in my life – my office exploded."
Miraculously, just 4 of Clarke's 170 coworkers perished in the tragedy. One of her recurring dreams since that horrible day is one in which she thanks Paltrow in person for saving her life.
"If I had made that train I would have been at my desk on the 77th floor of 2 World Trade center," she says.
She has written a letter to Paltrow about the amazing story, she says.
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