A 9/11 Burn Survivor’s Inspiring Recovery

On September 11, 2001, Lauren Manning, a former managing director and partner at Cantor Fitzgerald, suffered burns on over 82 percent of her body in the attack on the World Trade Center.  In the ensuing months in hospital, death stalked her. But through hard work, faith, and the love of family and friends, she eventually triumphed over pain and disability. Here, a visual chronicle of her inspiring journey of transformation, excerpted from her book, "Unmeasured Strength" (Henry Holt and Company).

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On November 17, 2001, more than two months after 9/11, I was finally allowed to see my son. I was afraid he wouldn’t recognize me or, worse, that he’d be afraid of me. But my fears evaporated when his smile proved that we had not been lost to each other.

 

Photo caption: reunion with Tyler

Henry Holt Publishing

In late November I took my first steps without the aid of a walker. Here, I’m getting help from my sister Gigi (right) and one of my physical therapists, as my mom (rear) and sister-in-law Laura (left) look on.

 

Photo caption: stroll with Gigi final

Henry Holt Publishing

I was particularly concerned about whether I would ever regain the use of my hands, both of which were badly burned. Here, in late November 2001, Hope Laznick, assistant chief of physical therapy, is assisting me soon after surgery on my hands.

 

Photo caption: Lauren after hand surgery

Henry Holt Publishing

From the moment I opened my eyes, my mother and father became my partners in recovery, and they met every crisis with focus and determination. Here, in December 2001, near the end of my stay at Weill Cornell’s William Randolph Hearst Burn Center, we enjoy a light moment.

 

Photo caption: Lauren with parents at burn center

Henry Holt Publishing

In February 2002, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton visited me at the Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains, NY. Our paths have crossed a number of times since that day, and she has always offered an embrace and an encouraging smile.

 

Photo caption: with Senator Hillary Clinton

Henry Holt Publishing

In May 2002, I got a welcome hug from Harry Waizer, an attorney at Cantor Fitzgerald who, like me, spent months
at the Burn Center and at Burke recovering from his injuries. Behind us stood Howard Lutnick, Cantor Fitzgerald’s CEO.

 

Photo caption: with Waizer and Lutnick

During my stay at Burke, Greg would bring Tyler to visit every weekend. Those forty-eight hours were the most anticipated part of the week for me. Seeing his face, holding him in my arms, kissing his soft, perfect skin—this was what I had lived for.

 

Photo caption: with Tyler at Burke

Henry Holt Publishing

Certified nurse’s assistant Kareen Brown, who first began working with me at the Burn Center, became a nearly constant companion for five years. Here, we share a happy moment in April 2002 soon after my return home.

 

Photo caption: Madame Curie and Madame Fury

Henry Holt Publishing

On Mother’s Day 2002, Greg, Tyler, my parents, and I visited the Central Park Zoo. I was very anxious about this public outing, but I focused on Tyler and lost myself in the moment.

 

Photo caption: Central Park with Lauren's parents

Henry Holt Publishing

In June 2004, I was chosen to participate in the International Olympic Torch Relay in advance of the summer games in Athens. Here, Greg and I are running up Central Park West.

 

Photo caption: Torch relay

Henry Holt Publishing

By the summer of 2004, I had come a long way. But when I look at this photo now, I see an injured stranger who had no idea how far she still had to go—a woman who, step by step, would become me.

 

Photo caption: Lauren and Tyler at Bridgehampton

Henry Holt Publishing

Two sisters, side by side. The great distance between the paths Gigi and I had followed could have separated us forever, but instead we became much closer during my recovery. Here, we smile for Greg’s camera in October 2008.

 

Photo caption: Gigi and Lauren

Henry Holt Publishing

In July 2009, Greg and I decided to take Tyler on a grand adventure and then deliver a piece of very happy news. Here, at the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Tyler learns that a baby brother is on the way.

 

Photo caption: Tyler learns about his brother

Henry Holt Publishing

Thanks to an extraordinary woman named Juliet Jones, who became our gestational carrier, Greg and I were able to have a second child. Here, in October 2009, Greg holds three-day-old Jagger while Juliet and I beam with pride.
 

Photo caption: Jagger and Juliet Jones

Henry Holt Publishing

On Father’s Day 2010, the four of us visited the Central Park Zoo. This time, I didn’t have to wear sun-protective clothing or a broad-brimmed hat. When I look at my family now, I see everything I ever dreamed of.

 

Photo caption: Greg, Lauren, Jagger and Tyler

Photo caption: Mannings©DeborahFeingold

 

Buy Unmeasured Strength here

 

Related: 9/11 Forced Me to Reinvent

 

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First Published September 9, 2011

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