By Greg Carannante
City & Shore Magazine
Susie Levan knows something about forgiveness. She is, in fact, tragically qualified — so much so that she could write a book about it. And now she has.
Three days before Christmas in 1988, Levan was kidnapped with her husband, Alan, and their 7-year-old daughter, Lauren, in their Coral Gables home. After they were held for the night, Alan, chairman of BankAtlantic, secured and paid the $250,000 ransom as Susie and Lauren were imprisoned in the trunk of his Mercedes. There she suffered a near-death experience that resulted in a PTSD that left her emotionally paralyzed for years.
Her traumatic and ultimately triumphant journey comes alive in Getting to Forgiveness — What a Near-Death Experience Can Teach Us About Loss, Resilience and Love, which she launched last month with a private book-signing event at Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Gloria Estefan wrote the book’s foreword.
Levan’s experience is more than merely a survivor’s story, though. It is imprinted with a resilient commitment to “pass it forward.” As a community leader, philanthropist and self-described spiritual warrior, she has spent the past three decades teaching the importance of meditation and helping women live their best lives through personal growth. She founded Balance Magazine (1999-2009) and the non-profit Work-Life Balance Institute for Women, and has facilitated the Women’s Wisdom Circle for over 20 years. Levan is also a non-denominational pastoral counselor, hypnotherapist, life coach and Reiki master/teacher.
A 40-year financial executive, she is co-founder of the Susie & Alan B. Levan NSU Ambassadors Board. In 2018, the couple received the Broward County Philanthropists of the Year Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals of Broward County.
Published by Bee Hive Publishing, Getting to Forgiveness is available in hardcover for $24.99 and paperback for $14.99 from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Not surprisingly, all of the net proceeds from the book will be donated to charity, but for the first 90 days of sales, all of the gross proceeds will be donated to the United Way of Broward County, Hispanic Unity of Florida, Nova Southeastern University, Junior Achievement of South Florida, Broward Public Library Foundation, Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida, Habitat for Humanity Broward, and Women of Color Network, Inc.
The book has also been chosen to be part of the 2020 Literary Feast by the Library Foundation of Broward on April 4. Levan kindly took a break from autographing copies to respond to our standard set of Quote Unquote questions.
Aside from the weather, what do you enjoy most about South Florida?
There are so many things to love about living in Fort Lauderdale. I enjoy the diversity of the people, the culture, the food and the amazing scenery. I particularly enjoy meditating by the beach.
Aside from the weather, what do you dislike most about South Florida?
The traffic during the winter months when all the ‘snowbirds’ return.
Are you a beach person or a pool person?
I’m a beach person. I have a pool at home and have been in it probably twice. It’s there for my grandkids.
When in your life are you or have you been the happiest?
I was the happiest the day my husband, Alan, and I got married 31 years ago.
What do you do when you’re stuck in a traffic jam on I-95?
I put on a podcast, audio book or tune into the Spa channel on satellite radio.
What music are you listening to now?
I listen to the Love or Spa channels on satellite radio.
Are you a fan, and if so, of what?
I’m a fan of the Miami Heat.
If you had to choose: Beatles or Stones?
Beatles. I’ve loved Paul since I was 15!
What are your social media handles?
Facebook and Instagram: SusieLevanAuthor; Twitter: Susie Levan.
Apple or Android?
Who is your real-life hero or heroine?
My husband is my hero and the wind beneath my wings.
What car are you driving now?
G-Wagen [Mercedes-Benz G-Class].
If you had to choose: Rocky or Raging Bull?
What do you like most about yourself?
That I’m strong, brave, a good listener and that I have empathy for others.
What places in South Florida do you recommend to guests visiting from out-of-town?
The beaches, museums and delicious restaurants.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’m 5 feet tall and have always wanted to be taller.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My children and grandchildren.