One of the more heartbreaking memories of 9/11 was seeing Howard Lutnick, the CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, being interviewed by Connie Chung on ABC News. Lutnick, whose brother was among the missing (and later deceased), broke down repeatedly as he talked about the massive losses his company suffered during the attacks. Not in dollars, but in people.
"UNMEASURED STRENGTH is an extraordinary book. It is heartbreaking and shocking, compassionate and uplifting. It is a testament to determination and to love."
Cantor Fitzgerald was a financial services firm located on floors 101-105 of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Bond brokering and trading worldwide was their forte. When Islamic terrorists flew American Airlines Flight 11 into the building, it ripped through the floors occupied by the company. As a result, 658 people perished, crippling a company just 1,000 people strong.
That Tuesday morning, under a beautiful blue sky, Lauren Manning, a partner with Cantor Fitzgerald, exited her taxi and entered the lobby of Tower One. It was 8:46 AM, and as she approached the elevator banks, the building shuddered and swayed. Seconds later, Manning was engulfed by flames that blew out of the elevators, fed by 10,000 gallons of fuel. In horrifying agony as she burned, she struggled to fight her way back out of the building and to roll on the small grassy patch of land beneath the damaged Tower. Extinguishing herself with the aid of a complete stranger, Manning prepared to give up and let her life end. The wrinkle in that plan, the one light that urged her onward, was her son, Tyler, not yet one year old.
In the pages of UNMEASURED STRENGTH, Manning reveals the depths to which she had to mine in order to keep going day after day. The real beauty of her story is that at no point does this become a tale of woe-is-me. Sure, there are moments of self-doubt, wondering if the fight can be won, but those aren't digs for pity. Instead, they illustrate her understanding that a person in her position often fails to survive. And yet, because of her love for her newborn son and the miraculous outpouring of love, hope and faith from family, friends and strangers from across America connected by nothing but tragedy, she never gave up fighting.
Burned on 82 percent of her body and leaving her just an 18 percent chance to survive, Manning endured numerous surgeries in an effort to save her life --- a struggle that almost was doomed from the outset when she was taken to a hospital that had no experienced personnel in burn treatment. After finally being transferred to Weill Cornell Burn Center, she was put into a coma for weeks, which allowed the doctors to perform grafts and procedures and pray that no infection set in. Her hands were a wreck, and she would ultimately lose the full range of motion she had enjoyed prior. The upside was that she was alive and still had her hands.
Throughout UNMEASURED STRENGTH, Manning drifts back to childhood moments and the tutelage of her parents, explaining how their examples set her on her determined path in both her professional life and her recovery. More than that, it serves as a confrontation with a new reality, an immediate change in who she was and how she would forever be altered by the events of September 11, 2001 --- physically and emotionally. Yet even in the face of such tremendous change resides her fight to remain as normal a mother and wife as is capable, including the hope for another child.
Though the book is her story, it is a mark of her grace that she acknowledges that it would not exist without the scores of medical professionals who treated her and her family, including her husband, Greg, and their son, who never wavered. Equally important to her were the colleagues and friends she eventually learned had all perished that day, and the hopes pinned on her survival by their grieving families.
Lauren Manning had everything: new marriage, new son, successful Wall Street career --- and in one excruciating moment she nearly lost all of it. There was nothing simple about her recovery, or even her survival. By all accounts, she should probably have perished. The only simple fact in her entire remarkable story is that she decided to live. It was conscious, and it was the only goal worth achieving --- survive and deny the terrorists one more life in their perceived success; survive and mother her son with every ounce of love she could muster; survive and celebrate rebirth.
UNMEASURED STRENGTH is an extraordinary book. It is heartbreaking and shocking, compassionate and uplifting. It is a testament to determination and to love. Manning shows that life has things worth fighting for, if you have the clarity to see them and to fight unwaveringly until the end. Often we find them too late, in the midst of crisis or tragedy.
Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on August 19, 2011