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Remembering 9/11 - State Senator (Lt. Colonel) Brian Birdwell, A Story of Survival and Grace
September 11, 2001 was one of those days that is seared in everyone's memory. Like you, I remember exactly where I was that morning. My mother (one of my best news sources) called me to tell me that someone had flown into one of the World Trade Center buildings. My immediate thought was a weather related issue. I was stunned when I turned on the television in my office and discovered a burning tower smoking before a stark, clear sky. I watched, as many of you did, as the second plane smashed into the second tower, and said to myself, "We are under attack!"
I was numbed by the rest of that day and went to my church that evening to hear Rev. Howard Caesar (Unity Church of Christianity in Houston) deliver one of the most healing services I have ever heard. In the following days I was amazed by the planeless skies as all flights were grounded. Eventually, life goes on...
In the summer of 2006, I attended the Republican Party of Texas State Convention as a delegate. During those days two more things happened that were again seared into my permanent memory. First as we sat in conference, the death of President Ronald Reagan was announced. Obviously he was loved by everyone in attendence and the room sat in stunned silence. The second thing was a speech from then Army Lt. Colonel Brian Birdwell.
Colonel Birdwell was in the Pentagon on 9/11 at 9:37 am when Flight 77 smashed into the Pentagon. Had he been sitting at his desk he would have been killed immediately as was everyone he worked with. As fate would have it, he left his desk momentarily and went to the restroom. His injuries should have killed him, but as he was tellling us his amazing story of survival, it was clear they did not. Even more impressive than his story of survival was the grace and humor he wove into his story. We all sat in the room fighting back tears listening to his very personal encounter with the five terrorists of Flight 77.
Birdwell credits the Grace of God with his survival. As you listen to his story below, you will quickly see that only God could have saved him from burns that normally take a victim to their grave.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to talk with now Senator Birdwell at the Texas Capitol on the occasion of Texas' Fallen Warrior Remembrance. He talked to me about the importance of honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives in service to our country. As for his survival, Birdwell said, "That was God's work, not mine."
Much is said about those who died on 9/11. Rightfully so. But there are many amazing stories about those who survived. People who had the misfortune of being in the right place at the wrong time as well as those who voluntarily put themselves in harm's way in service to their fellow man. May we all take this time to remember and honor them as well as the dead.