Lauren Manning waters the flowers on her third-floor
balcony - no big deal, unless you're Lauren Manning.
Burned over more than 80 percent of her body in last year's attack on the
World Trade Center, Manning, 41, beat the odds just by surviving.
She managed to hang tough through several surgeries and months of
rehabilitation. She refused to be undone by terrible memories of that
astonishing morning when, heading to work at the Cantor Fitzgerald bond trading
firm, she was swallowed by a fireball in the lobby of Tower One.
In therapy, physical and occupational, Manning was eager and resolute. (And
continues to be: She sees therapists six days a week.) There was no choice.
Give it your all or give it up - that seemed to be her mind-set.
"I'm determined to get better," she said the other day. "I don't want the
terrorists to get one more minute of time than what they have taken from me."
Hers is an uplifting saga, triumph amid tragedy.
Manning's struggle to stay alive was captured by her husband, Greg, 45, in
e-mail advisories that he sent to friends and family during the initial phase
of her treatment - messages that became the basis for a bestselling book,
"Love, Greg & Lauren." A new paperback edition (Bantam, $11.95) updates the
She has been the subject of articles in the New York Times and appeared
appearance on "Larry King Live" is scheduled for Wednesday. During
took notice. To demonstrate support for the couple, the Rolling Stones star
sent a guitar to Greg, a brokerage firm executive who also plays bass for a bar
band called the Rolling Bones. (Manning revved up the red Telecaster for one
performance and retired the instrument while ahead.)
High-profile as her story has been, Lauren Manning knows - despite the love
of her husband and son, Tyler, nearly 2, and the expertise of medical
personnel - that recovery is mostly a solitary enterprise. "I have a job to do,
and I am going to do it," she said.
So, resolute, she is hard at work. Therapy, exercise, whatever it takes to
retrieve a normal life after an unthinkable event and unspeakable aftermath. As
Lauren Manning says: "This wasn't a burn from a barbecue."
Manning wears Jobst compression garments - sort of support stockings for
the legs, upper body, arms and hands - because pressure on her skin grafts
helps them heal properly. In conversation, she presents her right ear; a
portion of the left is missing - burned away in the attack (but likely to be
The tips of her left index and middle fingers were amputated, although
their absence is barely noticeable through the open ends of her Jobst gloves.
On the way back from therapy, Manning, who lives with Greg, Tyler and an
affable wheaten terrier named Caleigh in a renovated, three-bedroom apartment
in the West Village, sometimes passes the site where the Twin Towers - those
"grand structures," as she describes them - stood until they collapsed.
More to the point, when she goes onto her little balcony to water the
dahlias and petunias and the potato vine, Manning has a straight shot downtown
- south, in the direction of what people for a year have been calling Ground
It was on the same balcony that Greg Manning stood, horrified, on the
morning of Sept. 11 and watched the towers burn - smoke belching, he was
certain, from the 105th floor of Tower One, where Lauren worked, and the 84th
floor of Tower Two, where his employer, Euro Brokers, was located. Friends and
family called immediately. "I could not say whether Lauren was alive," Greg
Manning wrote in his book. "I was almost certain she was dead."
(Behind schedule that day, Greg, a Euro Brokers vice president, was to have
attended a meeting at the Windows on the World restaurant on the 107th floor
of Tower One. More than 160 people at Windows perished when the skyscraper
How is it for Lauren Manning to view the attack site and then, while
tending the summer poseys on her terrace, see the eerie emptiness where the
Twin Towers should be - buildings in which Lauren and Greg Manning easily could
"Surreal," Lauren said, sitting next to her husband in their apartment - an
appealing, homey space brightened by a painting Lauren brought back from
France and by a bit of unexpected renegade art: brown crayon on the white
fireplace, compliments of Tyler. (The Crayola Kid was attending a birthday
party at the moment.)
On a shelf near the kitchen stood a framed picture of Lauren before she was
burned - a beautiful woman holding a bouquet of flowers on March 8, 2000, when
she and Greg were wed in the office of the city clerk, the second marriage for
It is not patronizing to say that Lauren Manning still is beautiful - that
the essence of the smiling, unscathed person in the photo shows through the
uneven topography of her wounded skin.
Manning anticipates at least eight more operations, some to improve the
functioning of her hands, others to smooth the scars and rough spots.
"I mourn the fact that I don't look like I did on the morning before I went
to the office," Manning said. But she refuses to be sentimental about herself.
"What happened is a lousy thing," she said. "I wish it hadn't."
That's it. What more need be said?
Maybe this: Manning was determined not to die. As she ran from the Trade
Center, a stranger batted out the flames crawling over her. He and a friend got
her to an ambulance. So terrible was the pain that Lauren Manning told her
husband she at first wanted to let go. Then, she caught herself. She was not
giving up. She was going to hang on, she said, for Greg, for Tyler.
"I chose to make it," she said. Enough people were lost on Sept. 11 -
including more than 650 from Cantor Fitzgerald and more than 60 from Euro
Brokers. She was not going to squander her chance for survival. Manning's pluck
may have been her greatest ally. "I'm not going to conduct my life in the
confines of what these people did to me and my colleagues," she said.
Manning at first was taken to St. Vincent's Manhattan hospital and then to
the William Randolph Hearst Burn Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital's
Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Dr. Roger Yurt, burn center chief, said Manning was badly hurt - "a big
burn and very deep." In addition, he said, smoke and perhaps the ingestion of
fuel had affected her lungs. For more than two months, Manning needed support
from a ventilator.
She endured several sieges of pneumonia, Yurt said - one so severe "we
thought we might lose her." But, the doctor said, Manning - who was deeply
sedated during the initial phases of treatment - had fortitude beyond what
might have been expected. "Her determination to survive made a big difference
in the acute phase and now in the rehabilitation phase," Yurt said.
The physician, 57, has treated trauma patients throughout his career.
Lauren Manning, he said, was an inspiration.
"Although we have seen similar cases in the past, this one made much more
an impression and affected me in that not only was Lauren Manning the survivor
of the Trade Center, but her ability to snap back is probably better than I
have seen and drives me to work even harder," he said.
After three months at the burn center, Manning went to the Burke
Rehabilitation Center in White Plains.
She began a therapeutic regimen six days a week. There was emphasis on ADL
training - activities of daily living. Perhaps nothing testifies more
profoundly to the extent of Manning's injuries than her need to relearn the
basics - getting dressed, feeding herself, taking a shower, sliding into a car.
"Lauren had been deprived of all those things," her husband said in the book.
Again, she wowed the professionals. "She is a very active coper, as opposed
to a denier," said Dr. Richard Novitch, director of pulmonary rehabilitation
at Burke. "She is not a stick-your-head- in-the-sand kind of person. Probably
that is the way she deals with the rest of the things in her life."
Novitch said that Manning was, in a sense, fortunate because her injuries
were related mostly to burns - no heart or kidney damage, for instance - and
did not present unusual complications. On the psychological front, Novitch
said, while Manning occasionally was "distraught," she never needed treatment
for clinical depression.
If Manning showed spunk, Novitch said the occupational and physical
specialists at Burke did, too - often providing seven man-hours of therapy a
day, a taxing schedule. "I don't know how our staff did it," he said.
Manning's treatment at Burke lasted three months. "She really flew through
it," Novitch said.
Then, Lauren Manning was home - a half-year after she fled the lobby of
On leave from Cantor Fitzgerald, Lauren, a senior vice president, said she
hopes to resume her career when life allows. Greg, on leave from Euro Brokers,
said the same. But for now, recovery is their priority.
They consider themselves lucky.
Lauren, who grew up in New Jersey and studied economics at Fordham
University, and Greg, a Manhattan native who majored in English at the
University of Pennsylvania (he was executive editor of the campus paper), could
have lost each other a year ago. Tyler could be without one parent, or two.
The Mannings are not the kind of folks to dwell on somber contingencies.
True, Lauren described herself as "a casualty of war" and, speaking of
Sept. 11, 2001, Greg said, "I don't think I've been free of that day since it
But they prefer to dwell more on the promise of the future than the anguish
of the past.
There is no way of knowing how any Trade Center victim will fare, of
course. Burn patients have much to overcome. "Most of these people can go on to
live reasonably well-adjusted lives," said Weill Cornell psychologist JoAnn
Difede, who has worked with a number of survivors. "Some may have problems
In the way she looks and talks and thinks and conducts herself, Lauren
Manning seems solidly in the camp of the well-adjusted.
She said she hopes there will be less hatred in the world - that parties
hostile to the United States will see the futility of their ways and that
Americans will take care not to lump terrorist factions with peace-loving
Greg has spoken at an antiterrorism summit organized by Gov. George Pataki
and serves on the advisory council of the 9/11 United Services Group, a
consortium of human service organizations that helps coordinate assistance for
victims of the Trade Center attack and their families.
On Wednesday, Greg and Lauren expect to attend observances planned by their
respective employers. After those melancholy reunions, the Mannings will get
back to business - the business of being a family and planning a future and,
for Lauren, of getting well. "Another workday for me," Lauren said.
The couple intends to stay in New York and watch the city renew itself.
They have a son to raise, careers to pursue, flowers to water on the balcony.
The Mannings vow to continue doing what in the last year they have done best.
"In my mind," Lauren Manning said, "we should move forward."