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A Survivor's Story

Brian and Mel Birdwell

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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.

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