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Love Will Find A Way

Brian and Mel Birdwell and Gary and Carrie Gobble

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A Day We'll Never Forget
by Brian Birdwell

"Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America." -President George W. Bush, September 11, 2001

On September 11, 2001, American Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. I was standing 15 to 20 yards from the point of impact. It took only a few seconds to change my life forever.

The searing second- and third-degree burns inflicted upon more than 60 percent of my body brought months of absolute torture. For weeks no one knew if I would live or die.

But God knew. He had a plan for my life. And no terrorist would be able to work against the purposes of God. My survival didn't happen by luck or mere chance. It happened because a sovereign God had a specific plan for my life. And while I do not understand why God chose to allow me to live when so many others perished, I do know He was with me.

The course back toward living has been dark, difficult, and agonizing. There have been many moments when I cried out to God, "Why did you let me live?"

The answer always seemed to be this: Just wait. Be patient.

For three months I waited and endured more than 30 excruciating surgeries, daily debridements, and torturous physical therapy. I waited through long hours of lying alone with my thoughts and questions, revisiting the events of September 11 in all their horror again and again.

Through my experiences I learned a lot of lessons, the most important one being that God doesn't necessarily keep us from going through our own personal fire. He won't magically remove the hurt and the consequences of decisions made. But He promises to walk through those experiences with us. While He may not take away the pain, He gives us the strength, comfort, peace, and endurance to walk through, to get to the other side, and to be closer to Him in the process.

For every tear we shed, God sheds so many more. When we're angry over injustices done to us, God is even angrier. When we grieve, He grieves. God is there with us each step of the way.

I am a survivor -- but only by God's grace and compassion. I could never have gotten through this horrific ordeal without depending on Christ and without the support of my committed wife, Mel.

Before September 11, 2001, we were boring, normal, everyday people. We spent our Friday nights at home watching John Wayne movies and eating pizza. We attended church, got together with friends, and enjoyed our quiet, uneventful life as a family.
This is a true story about the Lord's sovereignty in our lives. Our lives are forever different. The day I went to the Pentagon and saw where Brian was in relation to where the plane struck, I realized there was no way he could have survived except for the hand of God protecting him and our family.

We've had many opportunities to speak about our faith. We think it's important to tell our story, because if we fail to do so, then those thousands of lives lost on that day were a waste, not a sacrifice.

Some parts of this book have been extremely difficult for us to write and to reread. We had blocked out so much of the pain we didn't even remember certain events until we began to reread my journal and then discuss and relive the ordeal.

No one can ever comprehend the horror and full impact of what Brian's body experienced, but we can share on the level of compassion and sympathy. This book isn't easy to read. It shows a portion of the pain, suffering, and indignities we endured.

And yet we also pray it shows the hope we have held onto and claimed as our own.

Brian and Mel
We all face personal fires -- those life-changing, traumatic times when the course of our lives are forever altered. Those are the times we learn to rely on God -- or when we decide to become angry with Him and push Him away. When we rely on Him, He shows us what He's capable of accomplishing regardless of the tragedy we may experience -- whether it is physical, emotional, or spiritual.

While this book tells our story, it is so much more. It is really a story of God's love, mercy, graciousness, and loving sovereignty in our lives. He is at work in all of our life stories. Sometimes He works in big, miraculous ways, and sometimes He works behind the scenes. But He is always working.

That is where our hope lies. Christ provides the hope that we will endure this suffering and emerge stronger because of it.

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