NEW YORK – Tyler Manning is not even two years old. But someday he'll be able to read how his mother fought back from the brink of death after terrorists slammed a plane into her workplace on Sept. 11.
Love, Greg & Lauren (Bantam) is a collection of daily e-mails written by Greg Manning to update friends and family about the condition of his wife Lauren, 40, who was burned over 82 percent of her body when a fireball roared out of the elevator shaft of the World Trade Center's north tower lobby. She was on her way to her office at Cantor Fitzgerald — a company that lost 658 employees — on the 105th floor.
When Greg looked out the window of the couple's Manhattan apartment and saw black smoke billow from his wife's building that day, he feared she was dead. But that afternoon he was at her hospital bedside to hear her say: "Greg, I was on fire. I ran out. I prayed to die. Then I decided to live for Tyler and for you."
Spending day and night at the hospital, Greg didn't have the time or energy to respond to all the calls from loved ones. So he wrote an e-mail to a group of 30 friends and family detailing Lauren's progress and remarkable strength after being given less than a 17 percent survival rate.
The e-mails started getting forwarded to people outside the original list and soon Manning was getting requests from other acquaintances to be added to the list. A friend who writes for Bantam publishing received one of the e-mails and thought they could become a book.
Greg didn't set out to write anything for mass publication, but he said the e-mails were therapeutic for him and gave others a glimpse into his and Lauren's daily life.
"The only thing I was ever doing was writing our friends," he said in a telephone interview. "People have thanked me because they wanted to feel that connection to her."
And it's not just the couple's nearest and dearest who have felt connected. Greg receives around 30 e-mails a day from people who write that Lauren is their inspiration. From a woman who reconciled with her husband to former nurses who now want to return to their job, the story has moved people from all walks of life.
Even firefighter's families have written the Mannings to say they're so happy Lauren made it and that she's an inspiration, Greg said.
"The book starts on Sept. 11 but there are only two pages on that," said Greg. "The rest is more of a story of healing and hope."
After spending six months in a burn unit and rehab center Lauren returned home in late March and is now in daily physical and occupation therapy.
"She's a long way from being able to go back to work full time, but she can now jog and pick up our son," said Greg. "And mentally she is the same person she was, still fun, dynamic and social. Her state is upbeat and hard driving.
"But she has to deal with serious injury and the memory of what happened to her friends. She's in very close touch with Cantor Fitzgerald and there's no doubt she wants to go back — but burn injuries can take at least a year to heal."
Timing that morning forever changed the Mannings’ lives. Greg, a senior vice president for Euro Brokers, also worked in the World Trade Center but was home caring for the baby that morning. His firm lost 60 employees in the attack.
In Greg's last e-mail in the book, dated Dec. 11, the couple reflect on that fateful day: "The most horrible visions of which I am capable certainly happened to people I knew and Lauren knew; we cannot stop thinking about what might have been," Greg wrote. "But I didn't go that morning, and she did run late; and I did find her. A tag team of angels brought her back to me and kept her alive for our boy."
While Lauren's recovery has been arduous and tested the couple's mettle, their marriage has never seemed more precious.
"Our love is much stronger and the experience has given us an amazing appreciation for being with each other every day," Greg said. "Every day from here on is a gift."