This is an excerpt from Unmeasured Strength, Lauren Manning’s account of surviving the 9/11 attack at the World Trade Center and her struggle to recover from severe burn injuries.

The flames were consuming me, and as the first searing pain hit, I thought, This can’t be happening to me.

The fire embraced my body tighter than any suitor, touching every inch of my flesh, clawing through my clothes to spread its hands over me, grabbing left and right, rifling over my shoulder blades, down my back, wrapping my legs in agony, gripping my left arm, and taking hold of both my hands. I covered my face, but I could not scream. My voice was powerless. I was in a vacuum, the air depleted of oxygen, and everything was muffled. The screams, the roar of the fire, the shattering sound of breaking glass— all that was very far away. I was suspended in space.

Then my captor slammed me forward. I lurched toward the doors in a desperate effort to get away. As I did, something— I have no idea what— hit me in the back of the head. For a moment, I was pushed against the glass; then I was sucked backward again by a monstrous inhalation that pulled me toward its heart. I battled to escape, fighting my way through the outer doors as the fire grew over me, spreading farther down my head, my arms, my back, my legs. Then, abruptly, I was spit from the fire’s mouth out onto the sidewalk, where I had been standing just seconds before.

The fire was all around me now, a shroud of flame. I was suffocating with every gasp of charring fumes. I saw nothing but concrete and pavement, but I knew there was a narrow strip of grass on the other side of West Street, in front of the World Financial Center. I knew with absolute certainty that I had to get there, that the patch of grass offered my only chance to put out the flames, and that if I did not push myself toward it with a razor-edged act of will, I would be annihilated, devoured by unbearable pain and terror.