This is the second story in a three-part series featuring words from ephemera collector Michael Ragsdale. Ragsdale has been a collector of New York City event-specific paper ephemera and autographs since 1997. He started collecting the items for fun while working as a cameraman capturing various events for C-SPAN and others. Ragsdale hobby took a new direction on the morning of September 11, 2001, when he began two aftermath-related collecting efforts, both important and unique.
Meeting Lauren Manning, who suffered severe burns in the World Trade Center terror attacks of 2001, and her husband Greg was unforgettable.
On May 21, 2003, I was assigned to cover the Programs in Occupational Therapy Convocation and Award ceremony at the College of Physicians & Surgeons at Columbia University Medical Center. After learning Lauren Manning would be the keynote speaker, I grabbed a program for her to sign and approached her. With a huge grin on her face, she agreed to sign the program. With both hands wrapped partially in protective gloves, she grabbed the pen and signed it.
Watching her simply sign her name reminded me of the horror she survived on 9/11.
Manning, who suffered burns on more than 80 percent of her body, delivered stirring remarks. In her address she praised occupational therapy graduates for choosing such a noble field and gave them advice on how to secure the trust of their patients. Talking personally, she recalled her years of struggling with pain. She said the words "you'll be fine" she heard from her caretakers were important.
Manning also told the crowd how she was injured on 9/11, engulf by a wall of fire in the lobby of One World Trade Center. A man extinguished her flames as she sprawled on a patch of grass across the street from the World Trade Center.
“I remember looking up at the flames that were raging above, and looking to the left and to the right and seeing every blade of glass with razor precision. And at the end of my arms my hands were white. They were beautiful, sculptures made up of parathion wax. Everything was perfectly shaped, perfectly formed. But something was obviously and terribly wrong,” she said during her speech.
Weeks later, she awoke sedated in a hospital bed, learning of the death of her friends and colleagues. Her husband, who also autographed a program for me, wrote a book about his wife's courage called "Love, Greg & Lauren."
A most memorable event for all to be at.
By Michael Ragsdale