The ghost of 9/11 haunts people who narrowly escaped death

Lauren Manning, who suffered burns to more than 80% of her body, cannot forget the moment she walked into the World Trade Center in New York 20 years ago.

Time Lauren Manning to the North Tower of the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York City, USA, on September 11, 2001, is also the time when the first plane hijacked by al-Qaeda militants crashed into this building, Creates a fireball that sweeps along the elevator shaft down the hall.

“There was a very loud and shrill hiss. Immediately after that, fire enveloped me. The pain was crushing my body and deepened. I was burned alive. There is no other way to describe it. “, Manning recounts.

Manning attempted to run out of the building and across the street, before falling, rolling on a patch of grass and being rescued by a man. “I didn’t give up, but I fought for death. I yelled at him ‘help get me out of here,'” Manning said.

In the midst of his injuries, Manning watched in horror as the terrorists crashed the second plane into the South Tower of the WTC. She saw many people fall from skyscrapers, realizing that her colleagues at the financial firm Cantor Fitzgerald were trapped on higher floors. All 658 company employees present in the office were killed that day.

Lauren Manning reunites with her son three months after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  Photo: Lauren Manning.

Lauren Manning reunites with her son three months after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Photo: Lauren Manning.

Manning, who escaped the WTC bombing in 1993, later found an ambulance, but her chances of survival were slim. “The burns were horrible, covering 82.5% of my body, mostly third-degree. More than 20% were fourth- or fifth-degree burns, meaning muscle or bone loss. By any standard no medical care, I should have died,” she said.

Manning was quickly taken to the hospital, then transferred to a specialist burn center. During the more than three months Manning was in a coma, her husband read poetry and played music by his bedside. “Maybe that affected me. My parents were there every day,” Manning said.

Days after waking up, Manning’s son Tyler, then a year old, visited his mother for the first time since the terrorist attacks. Manning was so scared the boy wouldn’t recognize him, but in the end Tyler ran towards her. “I guess she recognizes me through her eyes and voice. That’s all I needed,” she said.

Manning was hospitalized for more than six months, but his recovery, which included several surgeries, lasted nearly 10 years. Today, she still has the phone numbers of many colleagues who died on September 11, 2001. “The notion of deaths and terror has never been far away,” Manning said.

Obsessions also follow Lynn Tierney, New York Fire Department officials arrived on the scene after the two planes crashed into the twin towers. She planned to do an interview on the 68th floor of the North Tower, but that all changed because of the terrorist incident.

“The scene from the outside was horrifying, the two towers were on fire. But apart from the flames, the worst thing was there were people jumping off the towers. I witnessed two people holding hands and dancing together. Really I can’t believe it. I can’t imagine the choice they face. I just think about their family and it’s just so horrible,” Tierney said.

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Tierney arrived at the scene with 12 firefighters from two units, who later died in the rescue effort. She climbed through the window into the North Tower lobby, when the windows were broken. However, at that point, the fire brigade determined that they would not be able to put out the fire.

“The mission turned completely into rescue, trying to go up and get as many people out as possible,” the fire official said.

As Tierney assisted in coordinating the rescue effort from the north side of the North Tower, suddenly the South Tower collapsed. She recalls that she “ran like a fly” to a nearby warehouse. “The dust was so thick that I could almost chew it. I had a hard time breathing and so did everyone,” Tierney said.

After entering the warehouse, Tierney was tried to shield him by a police officer. “That was the only time I thought about death, silently praying to God to make it happen quickly. I don’t want to be stuck like a miner for 18 days and get crushed,” she said.

About 343 firefighters were killed that day. Tierney wrote about 100 eulogy for the victims. In just one day, 23 funerals were held.

“The feelings from 9/11 are always smoldering, you have to learn to live with it. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. Strangely I’m still alive. I can’t believe I survived,” Tierney, who served as president of the 9/11 Memorial Center, said.

British businessman Charlie Gray are also among the lucky survivors of the terrorist attack. At that time, he thought there was an earthquake while working on the 26th floor of the North Tower, because the building “shakes and moves”. Suddenly, Gray saw debris falling from higher floors.

“You could see they were actually on fire. We thought there must have been something like a bomb. No one said anything and we just ran to the stairs,” said the businessman from London.

Smoke rises from the World Trade Center in New York, US, September 11, 2001.  Photo: AP.

Smoke rises from the World Trade Center in New York, US, September 11, 2001. Photo: AP.

Gray and his colleagues took the stairs down, but more and more people entered the stairs, before they met three firefighters on the 17th floor. “As they walked through, we heard on their radio that one more car was added. The plane crashed into the South Tower. It took 17 minutes to go down nine floors,” Gray said.

He described the scene outside the WTC as “like a war zone”, with bodies in the streets and vehicles destroyed by debris falling from above. As he ran to the ferry terminal, Gray saw “a charred body” and about 20 people jumping off the towers.

After boarding a ferry, Gray heard a rumbling and witnessed the collapse of the South Tower with his own eyes. “In less than a minute, the ferry dock where we were standing was filled with dust,” he said, adding that 20 of his friends had died that day.

Gray was diagnosed with a form of post-traumatic stress disorder called “crime disorder”. “I’m in trouble because I’m always stuck with the thought of why so many people die and I don’t,” he said.

After returning to the UK in 2016, Gray gave motivational speeches, but admits he still struggles at times with mounting emotions because of the terror attacks.

“I think about everything and feel sad because it was a bad day. The obsession will never go away. But sharing my experience with others has helped me through,” Gray said.

Luster (Follow Sky News)

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