I rush out of our apartment at about 8:30 a.m., annoyed to be running so late but glad, after my disagreement with my husband Greg the previous night, to be on my way to work.
Now, after a kiss for my son, Tyler, a quick hello to Joyce, his nanny, and a barely grumbled good-bye to Greg, I am finally on my way. I walk up Washington Street, where I wait several minutes trying to hail a cab. But soon enough I am riding south, joining the morning crush of cars and trucks inching down toward the World Trade Center.
An excerpt from Lauren Manning's audiobook Unmeasured Strength, published by Macmillan Audio.
I glance at my watch, and again I'm irritated by how late it is. Across the Hudson River, the Jersey City skyline is bright and sharp against a backdrop of dazzling, pure blue sky. The river is a deep gray, its wind-driven swells crisscrossed by the wakes of morning water taxis. I grow impatient when we are caught at yet another red light, but before long we are turning left across West Street to the carport entrance to One World Trade Center.
As the taxi pulls under the clear roof of the porte cochere, I pull out my wallet to pay the driver. Two cabs in front of us pull forward, and I ask my driver to move up a bit so I can get out directly in front of the building's entrance. I step out of the cab, thinking how warm it is for September, how just the week before we were still at the beach in Bridgehampton. Heading for the revolving doors, I walk past the security barriers, which are barely camouflaged as large concrete planters. As I approach the building, I look through the glass and see two women standing and talking inside. I smile at them as I push through the revolving doors. Then I move through a second set of doors and enter the lobby, where I am jarred by an incredibly loud, piercing whistle.
I hesitate for a moment. Then I attribute the noise to some nearby construction project and continue toward the elevators.
Directly ahead, elevator banks offer service to floors 1 through 43. To my left, 12 express elevators serve a sky lobby on the 78th floor, where I will catch the elevator to reach my 105th-floor office at Cantor Fitzgerald.
As I veer left toward my elevators, I suddenly feel an incredible sense of otherworldliness. It's an odd, tremendous, quaking feeling, and everything . . . moves. The entire 110-story tower is trembling.
Then I hear a huge, whistling rush of air, an incredibly loud sound: shshooooooooooooo. My adversary is racing toward me, howling in fury at its containment as it plummets to meet me from above the 90th floor.
This is the moment and place of our introduction.
With an enormous, screeching exhalation, the fire explodes from the elevator banks into the lobby and engulfs me, its tentacles of flame hungrily latching on. An immense weight pushes down on me, and I can barely breathe. I am whipped around. Looking to my right toward where the two women were talking, I see people lying on the floor covered in flames, burning alive.
Like them, I am on fire.