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Author of the week: Lauren Manning

On 9/11, Manning was in the lobby of the World Trade Center when a massive fireball surged from the elevator banks and engulfed her body in flames.

Lauren Manning got only as far as the lobby on 9/11, said Bob Minzesheimer in USA Today. One of the tens of thousands who worked at the World Trade Center, Manning was waiting at street level for an elevator when a massive fireball surged from the elevator banks, engulfing her body in flames. In her new memoir, Unmeasured Strength, she writes, “I prayed for death, in that unspeakable way that people who are experiencing unimaginable pain can.” But then she thought of her young son, Tyler: “I can’t leave my son….I can’t die like this, stumbling into the streets in flames.” Burning alive, she was saved by a man who removed his jacket and smothered the flames. “He’s one of the true heroes,” says Manning. “He ran toward trouble instead of away from it.”

Most Americans will take time this Sept. 11 to reflect on the tragedy, said Andrea Sachs in Time. Manning has spent the past decade reflecting. Burned over 80 percent of her body, she’s now mostly recovered, thanks to numerous surgeries and extensive rehabilitation, and she tells her story in unflinching detail. Now the mother of two sons, she still deals with the scars and the pain, but she’s never allowed herself to ask the question “why me?” “I would have become a physical and mental basket case. And what would that have done to my family? What would that have done for me?” she says. “I was dealt a tough hand, but I still had a hand to play. And I never want to forget the enormity of that gift.”

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