Unmeasured Strength: from a 9/11 Survivor

Lauren Manning, from laurenmanning.com

I’m fairly certain I’ve never written 2 posts in 1 day on this blog. But today is a good day for an exception. Moments ago, I received the following words in an e-mail from Lauren Manning …

I was running half an hour late on September 11, 2001, when I pushed through the doors of One World Trade Center – soon to become known to all as the north tower – and turned toward the elevators that would take me to my 105th floor office at Cantor Fitzgerald.

Just as I turned left, a tremor shook the 110-story tower, followed by a huge, whistling rush of air. There were only three full-height elevator shafts in the building, but they offered the jet fuel explosion an unimpeded path to the lobby, and a moment later, with a giant, screeching exhalation, a wall of flame exploded from the elevator banks and engulfed me.

Its tentacles latched on with crushing force. I was spun around, and battled to escape the building and run toward a strip of grass across the street to drop and roll. The desire to yield to the blackness that rose around me was overwhelming, but then my mind was filled with a vision of my 10 month old son, Tyler, and I decided to live. To me, it was a clear and conscious decision.

I had been engulfed by the fires that would bring down the twin towers of the World Trade Center, so injured that almost no one held out any hope for me. I spent almost two months in a drug-induced coma before I opened my eyes. Yet in the weeks and months that followed, I battled back from the edge of death to hold my child in my arms, and intertwine my husband’s fingers with what was left of my own.

The injury I suffered was perhaps more intimate than any other; it was all- encompassing, from the outside in. But with each step of my recovery, I learned that the shell encasing me was not my real beauty. Our real reflection is the inner mirror that tells us the truth of who we really are. The body I saw when I looked into that mirror was the body that had fought the battle while I slept and refused to die before I awoke— the one that had invested itself with strength, guarded my soul, and brought me home to my family. There could not be a more perfect body on Earth.

The scars that cover me are proof of man’s capacity for hatred and evil. But these scars speak only of our physical fragility, not the boundless strength in our hearts. The shadows of the burning towers have been overpowered by the twin beacons of faith and love that guided me forward and led me home. Faith in God, faith in love, and faith in myself have vanquished the emptiness I felt when I thought that I would never see Tyler again or never have a second child.

I am grateful to my family and my caregivers, who stood by me and never wavered; most of all to my son, Tyler, who inspired me to fight. I am thankful for the friends and the good people around the world who opened their hearts to me and offered their support in writing or in person. They lifted my spirits during my hardest days, and their good will signals the goodness that lies within all of us.

I will never forget the friends and colleagues who were killed on September 11, 2001. As I wrote Unmeasured Strength, I thought of them constantly. Every breath I share with my own family is in part a tribute to their memory, and to the memory of all the innocents who died on that day.

We are all in debt to the men and women of our armed services who have fought the battle both before and after September 11 so that others will not be harmed by terror or tyranny. I send my most profound wishes for a healthy recovery to all those warriors who have been wounded, and to the loved ones of those who died in the performance of their duty, know that we hold them in the highest respect, and we honor the mission for which they sacrificed their lives.

All of us have been wounded in some way, whether by violence, disease, or other personal tragedy. But though we can never pretend that we have not been touched by adversity, we can refuse to be held by it. Whether you open your eyes after a single night or seven long weeks, from that moment of it is up to you. The only way forward is to gather your courage and take that lonely first step— the step of commitment, the step that will be remembered for generations.

What will you choose to do, with the time God has given you?
Every day you have a choice. Make it count.

During the past several weeks, Lauren has been invited to share her story on The View, The Today Show, and in many magazines and newspapers. We appreciate her willingness to share these words with us!
©2011 by Lauren Manning, from Unmeasured Strength, published by henry Holt and Company, LLC.

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