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God asks us to speak, to record the memories that mark our lives. This is the living testament, then, of the times and places and things I have done that mark my days on earth.
Since 9/11, I have often been asked to share my story, but it is always with a certain awkwardness that I talk about myself or my personal feelings. I am much more comfortable telling a joke, chatting about the headline of the moment, or drawing others in by asking about their lives. My parents frowned on self-congratulation, and so even when my siblings and I had a right to be proud of our accomplishments, we were told to be humble. So telling my story has its challenges.
Here is the simple version of what happened: I went to work one morning and was engulfed by the fires that would bring down the twin towers of the World Trade Center. I fled the building in flames, so terribly injured that almost no one held out any hope for me. Yet in the weeks and months that followed, I battled back from the edge of death to hold my child in my arms and intertwine my husband's fingers with what was left of my own. In almost every way, this is the story of a miracle.
I will never know how many others were gravely wounded along with me during the attacks' first moments. The places where my fellow victims stood, more than a thousand feet in the air, have disappeared forever. When the buildings collapsed, they took with them thousands of lives, among them too many of my friends and colleagues. By the smallest of margins, I was given a chance to survive, and I decided, early that morning, that I would never give up the fight to live. I would never surrender.
From the Book Unmeasured Strength by Lauren Manning. Copyright © 2011 by Lauren Manning. Reprinted by arrangement with Henry Holt, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company LLC.