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Unmeasured Strength by Lauren Manning: Review and Giveaway

Posted Sep 11 2011 12:00am

The Audio Book

It has been ten years since Lauren Manning was nearly burned alive at Ground Zero. She is a survivor of that tragic day and in her new book Unmeasured Strength ,” she writes about the events that put her in the Trade Center that day, her fight to survive and to get herself to safety so that she could see her husband and son again, her many weeks on at death’s doorstep, her fighting fiery to live, and her journey to today, ten years to the day that terrorists attacked our country.  Unmeasured Strength is now available through Macmillan Amazon , and other fine retailers and tells the personal survival story of one woman’s struggle to overcome tragedy and to recreate her life as a mother, wife, and woman. The people at Macmillan Audio were kind enough to send me a copy of the audio book for review and to allow me to share Lauren’s story with all of you.

An Excerpt from Unmeasured Strength

God asks us to speak, to record the memories that mark our lives. This is the living testament, then, of the times and places and things I have done that mark my days on earth.

Since 9/11, I have often been asked to share my story, but it is always with a certain awkwardness that I talk about myself or my personal feelings. I am much more comfortable telling a joke, chatting about the headline of the moment, or drawing others in by asking about their lives. My parents frowned on self-congratulation, and so even when my siblings and I had a right to be proud of our accomplishments, we were told to be humble. So telling my story has its challenges.

Here is the simple version of what happened: I went to work one morning and was engulfed by the fires that would bring down the twin towers of the World Trade Center. I fled the building in flames, so terribly injured that almost no one held out any hope for me. 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. In almost every way, this is the story of a miracle.

I will never know how many others were gravely wounded along with me during the attacks’ first moments. The places where my fellow victims stood, more than a thousand feet in the air, have disappeared forever. When the buildings collapsed, they took with them thousands of lives, among them too many of my friends and colleagues. By the smallest of margins, I was given a chance to survive, and I decided, early that morning, that I would never give up the fight to live. I would never surrender.

From the Book Unmeasured Strength. Copyright © 2011 by Lauren Manning.

The Book

Before September 11, Lauren had a job on Wall Street, a living husband, an infant son, confidence, intelligence and beauty.  On 9/11, all of that had to come to a screeching halt when a wall of flame at the World Trade Center left Lauren with burns on eighty percent of body sending her on a new kind of journey.  Many, including her doctors, didn’t think that Lauren would survive but when she awoke from a medically induced coma several weeks after the attack, Lauren insisted to herself and to others that she would not only survive but continue to recover and work towards a normal life.

It was the skills of deep faith, hard work, and perseverance that Lauren’s parents had instilled in her from a very young age that helped to escape from the burning tower, to survive many near death misses while in the hospital, endure multiple surgeries, to gain the very functions many of us take for granted like breathing, walking, and using our hands, and to find a new sense of normal when all the odds were against her.  Lauren wasn’t just surviving and recovering, she was transforming her entire life’s purpose.

Reading about Lauren’s story, many of us would say that Lauren was unlucky on September 11, 2001 but that is not entirely true.  Lauren was one of the lucky few to escape the World Trade Center that morning.  658 of her co-workers at Cantor Fitzgerald died that day and it was phone call that morning as she was leaving her Manhattan home that left Lauren a half hour behind schedule and spared her life.  She had been headed to 106th floor of the north tower but only made it as far as the lobby when she and countless others were hit by a wall of flame that engulfed the entire lobby where she had waited for the elevator.

Lauren was on fire and suffering in the most unimaginable way.  She prayed for death but she thought about her 10 month old son and how she was not ready to leave him. She pulled herself away trying to get to a narrow strip of grass outside the trade center while still in flames.  A man ran towards her, took off his jacket and helped to smother the flames.  It took 50 minutes for an ambulance to reach her, and everyone that saw her, including other injured persons, EMTs and doctors looked at her as if she was a goner.  Eventually, she ended up at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center, the country’s largest burn center.  Her recovery was long and painful spending three months in the hospital with nearly a month in a medically induced coma, three months in rehab, having had over 25 operations and skin grafts, having the tips of fingers amputated, and learning to stand and walk again.

Despite, all she endured, Lauren’s feels that she is lucky. In addition to losing her co-workers, her husband, Greg, also lost 61 of his co-workers.  He had worked on 84th floor of the south Tower but as fate would have it, he was not at the World Trade Center that day.  On 9/11, he had planned on attending a breakfast conference at a restaurant atop the trade center.  At the last minute, he had changed his mind about attending to help out a neighbor. Everyone at that conference was killed.

Eight days after the attacks on September 11, Greg Manning wrote an email to family and friends to update them on Lauren’s condition and signed that email and all the emails thereafter, “Love, Greg & Lauren.”  The daily emails that helped to him get through the crisis began getting forwarded and shared.  They even reached a book publisher and an editor at the New York Times. The New York Times featured an article about Lauren and Greg calling Lauren “a symbol of hope .”

Waking up from her coma weeks later, and finding out what had transpired on September 11 and how much time had passed, Lauren found herself on new mission. She would survive on behalf of those who died.  She would not “surrender to the terrorists” or allow them to “define” her. That mission is what helped her get through the next few months and years and aided her through her recovery.

My Thoughts

None of us could have imagined the ordeal faced by Lauren and many others that September day.  We were at our homes, our jobs, our schools and a variety of places but mostly, we are out of harm’s away. The thousands of employees and visitors to the Twin Towers that day were not as fortunate.  Unmeasured Strength is not just a story of a strong and courageous woman, but it is a story about human tragedy and compassion.  This story isn’t just Lauren’s story alone.  Lauren is just the storyteller who lived to speak for all those we lost that horrible day.

Because I was reviewing the audio book, I was able to hear Lauren’s voice tell that story in a clear way that reminds us all about our own good fortunate and fate.  She also reminds us that hope is possible even in the direst of circumstances.  I have made the intentional decision to post my review today, the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks so that each one of you can see what see what hope, courage, strength, and human spirit truly look like on the day that it matters the most. It is my way of honoring Lauren and her amazing passion for life. For more on Lauren’s journey, you can watch part of her interview with Oprah from last year which shows her journey from the beginning.

My choice to post this here and not at my review blog  is because the review belongs here. While Lauren’s journey isn’t necessary a chronic illness one, it is still a journey of continual healing.  The challenge of living with chronic illness or a long-term injury is one that requires a conscious awareness of what is happening in order to fully grasp what has happened to you, your treatment options, and how this will affect your life and the lives of your loved ones. From the moment that Lauren awoke from her coma, she realized how important it was to understand her injuries, her treatment options, and the affect it had on her loved ones.  She learned that being sick or injured is like being on a rollercoaster.  One minute you are up and hopeful and the next your feel down and doubtful. Lauren went through all the motions as she dealt with setbacks and found small victories.  She understood her injuries and her short and long term care were her new reality, along with what the terrorists took from her life, and the affect that it had on her husband, her son, and the rest of her family.

Lauren Manning wanted her life back and she took it back.  If that isn’t courage, I don’t know what is.  She showed courage to the best of her ability despite her limitations and diminished control over the effects of her injuries. Her decisions and her choices were the stuff in which courage emerges and the fact is that all of us who live with chronic illnesses and/or chronic injuries are courageous. For Lauren, meeting the challenges that life threw at her meant that she had learned and continued to learn how to meet her fears and move past them.

When Lauren escaped the burning towers that day, she did know that the journey ahead of her would be long and difficult but she found a reason to live and she fought to come back to her husband and son.  No one knows better than Lauren what she was up against, what she needed to heal, her challenges, and even her victories – big and small. Just like all of us who struggle with something, Lauren acknowledged her challenges and then she embraced them. In doing so, she celebrated her courage and triumphed in her victories. I hope that Lauren’s journey that can inspire and encourage you to live your life to the fullest, to be courageous and to take back what has been taken from your life.

In her own words:

It’s now been a decade since that day, and sometimes I look back and wonder, Have I accomplished anything of note or great worth? People have called me a hero, but I can only say that I did what I needed to do. I was not the agent of my own adversity. Pain and suffering were imposed on me; they invaded and overwhelmed my body and threatened to crush my soul. Once I opened my eyes after a long climb out of the darkness, I knew that every day, I had a choice. Every day I had to fully commit to outlasting my enemiesthose cowards who covered their faces from the light and screamed toward us in their metal daggers. Would I let their act of terror beat me into submission? Would I let them win? Would I let them steal my will to live, having failed to extinguish my life itself? Every day, I had to reach deep inside and find an as yet unmeasured strength that made it possible to carry on.

Check out  Lauren’s September 9, 2011 interview on The View.

 A Day We Will Always Remember

September 11, 2001 will be a day that we will all remember for the rest of our lives.  That was the day that an attack was carried out on U.S. soil and an event none of us could have ever imagined.  But it happened and thousands were lives were lost that day.   Some of them were unsuspecting as they started out their work day.  Some were brave public servants and others were ordinary people who risked their lives to rush into a situation that went beyond anything anyone could have imagined to save lives.  Others were members of our armed forces who we lost in effort to seek justice for the victims of 9/11 and to continue to keep our borders safe and then there are those who continue to fight for our freedom and safety daily.   

Please take a moment to think about those remarkable people we lost, those who were left to mourn their loved ones, and those who continue to keep us safe – our men and women in the armed forces and our men and women that serve as public servants.  Share the story of September 11, 2001 with your children and grandchildren because in doing so, we can all continue to honor the memories of all the heroes we lost that day.  

The Giveaway: Who were you on September 11?

On September 11, I was sitting a classroom at my college in Downtown Cleveland when a student came in saying she had heard on the radio that one of the towers had been hit.  Our professor then turned on the television and we all cried as we watched the pictures of the burning tower.  We saw the second tower getting hit and as we saw people jumping from the buildings, we thought that what we were watching couldn’t possibly have been real.  We were dismissed early and classes were canceled for the rest of the day.  I immediately went home to be with my son who was only a year old at the time. It was a very difficult time no matter where you were in the country.

Unmeasured Strength by Lauren Manning is currently available for purchase in print and as an audio book but one lucky reader of this blog will receive a copy of the six CD audio book.  To enter to win, please leave your email address below and if you want, please let us know where you were on September 11, 2011.

The giveaway is open to U.S. addresses only and you have until Saturday, September 17 at 11:59 pm to enter.  I will announce the winner on Sunday.

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