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Chapel Hill father remembers 9/11 victim as generous, humble

Posted September 9, 2011

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— 2001 was a roller-coaster year for Chapel Hill father John Manley. In August, he walked his 31-year-old daughter down the aisle at the Carolina Inn, where a magnolia tree blooms today in her honor.

A month later, on Sept. 11, he lost her.

Shortly after 8:30 a.m., a plane hijacked by terrorists struck the 93rd floor in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, the very same floor that housed Fred Alger, the investment firm where Sara Manley Harvey worked. It was the first of four coordinated attacks in New York City, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon.

Manley said he was proud of his daughter, not because she was a high-powered analyst on Wall Street by the age of 30 but because her life was marked by much more than professional success.

She was generous, he said, and humble.

"She never told me that she was a vice president of the firm she worked for. In fact, I found out after she died," Manley said. "She would not boast about anything like that, even her own achievements."

Before she died, just a few weeks after her wedding, Sara overheard her cousin's friend talking about how her daughter couldn't afford a nice wedding gown. 

"With that, Sara said, 'She can have my wedding dress,' and she volunteered her Vera Wang wedding dress," Manley said.

Sara Manley Harvey Chapel Hill father honors daughter killed on 9/11

Sara met her husband, Bill, at a fundraiser for Fabretto, a nonprofit that helps poor children in Nicaragua by giving them a place to get a hot, nutritious lunch and stay after school to continue their education. 

Soon, she became a top fundraiser for the organization. After her death, Fabretto dedicated a building to her in the village of Somoto.

"The president of Nicaragua came to the dedication (and) the American ambassador," Manley said. 

Fred Alger continues to donate thousands of dollars to the charity in her name. Fabretto has gone from helping about 1,000 Nicaraguan children to nearly 10,000. More than 500 children eat, play and learn each day in the building that bears Sara's name.

Georgetown University, Sara's alma mater, created a scholarship in her name. Mollie Richardson received that scholarship and is working for a top law firm in New York City.

"It's incredible to see how she gave in life and now continues to give even after her death," Richardson said.

Manley said he's gratified that people can benefit in his daughter's name even after she's been gone 10 years.

"Sara affected a lot of people, people that never knew her. In fact, you think about it, none of the people in Nicaragua know her, the recipients of the scholarship didn't know her, the wedding dress recipient didn't know her," Manley said. "Well, they do now (and) something good came out of this horrible, horrible day."

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  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Sep 9, 2011

    What a wonderful tribute to a generous lady!!!