Lauren Manning tells story of overcoming adversity to Kent State students


Lauren Manning, who was in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, shares her story with the Kent State students on October 15, 2013. “Good luck, bad luck and blind luck, I had all three that day,” Manning reflected. “I could not breathe, I could not speak…I could do nothing.” Photo by Melanie Nesteruk.

Rachel Purget

September 11th survivor Lauren Manning spoke in the KSU Ballroom Tuesday night at a leadership event sponsored by Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

Manning is the first in the fraternity’s speaker series and recalled how she overcame obstacles as a survivor of the terrorist attacks. About 200 people came to see Manning chronicle her nearly decade long process of healing and renewal.

In four inch black heels and a black pantsuit, Lauren Manning looked every bit the part of a former managing director for Cantor Fitzgerald, a leading brokerage firm, when she presented Tuesday.

Manning was at the top of her world when she went in to work on that fateful day, and she told a powerful story of how it all came crashing down around her.

Manning’s carefully spoken words held the audience captive as she told of being burned nearly to death on the 78th floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center.

“I was burned over 82 and a half percent of my body, most of them third degree. And in the burn business, they calculate your rate of survival by the total area damaged,” Manning said. “In my case, upon admission was at best 17 and a half percent.”

She recounted her trip down to the sidewalk where bystanders would help her put out the flames on her body and she would pray for death. An instant later she resolved to live for her ten month old son and chose to fight and look forward, as her Marine father had instructed her to do.

“I realized with a strange but certain clarity that this was it; this was my moment, my choice,” Manning said. “I thought to myself, I can fight to survive with the last of my will, or right here right now I can give in, give up and I’ll die on the side of a highway.”

Manning applied business principles to her own recovery and asked students to do the same with their own crises.

“When we are weak, we have to recruit others to our cause. When I took my rehabilitation seriously, so would others,” Manning said. “We became a team, we built a culture, and we built a bond just like we had in business. We shared a commitment; the win would be our win.”

Erik Clarke, junior political science major, is eminent recorder for Sigma Alpha Epsilon and is responsible for Lauren Manning’s visit to Kent State.

“We reached out to Lauren and she offered to come, we really appreciate what she’s doing,” Clarke said. “I wanted to give back to the Kent State community and give students an opportunity to hear such a powerful speaker who has such a moving story.”

Manning shared several lessons with those in attendance, stressing defeat is temporary and we do not know how strong we are until strong is our only option.

There was time for a quick question and answer session after Manning’s speech. Michelle Flynn, junior theatre studies major, asked about how to use September 11th as a tool to build better leaders.

“She definitely inspired me to learn how to become a leader and not just a follower,” Flynn said. “In regards to my question, that’s what I wanted to learn from her-knowing what she’s been through, the crisis that she’s been through what our generation today could do to be better leaders.”

Contact Rachel Purget at [email protected].