September 2006, and Lauren Manning looks terrific.
Striding across the lobby of a Manhattan high-rise, she exudes the confidence she once routinely projected as a senior vice president and partner at Cantor Fitzgerald, the bond-trading firm that lost 658 people on September 11, 2001. That day as she entered the building, a fireball raced down the elevator shaft and blasted her back out, burning more than 82% of her body. Doctors gave her just a 15% chance of surviving.
“I really am feeling great,” she says by way of introduction. “I have a lot more strength and am ready to move forward with a more normal life — which is a tonic in itself.”
Now 45, Lauren cannot believe that five years have passed since 9/11. Tyler was just ten months old when his mother dashed out of their Greenwich Village apartment on her way to work. She was running late. Greg — then a senior vice president, director of sales and marketing with Euro Brokers, and now a vice president of intellectual property with Cantor Fitzgerald — had an 8:30 a.m. conference at Tower One’s Windows on the World. But he missed the meeting because he, too, was running late. If everything had gone as planned, Lauren would have been on the 105th floor and Greg would have been on the 107th when the plane hit.
During Lauren’s long road back to health — an excruciating process she once described as pushing a rock uphill every day — she’s endured more than 25 surgeries, including skin grafts and scar revisions to her back, face, and hands. The physical breakthroughs have been hard won. She’s finally shed the stifling pressure garments she wore 23 hours a day to keep scar tissue from forming; last year she finished five years of rehab treatments.