Sermon Illustrations

Lt. Col. Brian Birdwell Injured during 9/11 Attack on Pentagon

On September 11, Lt. Col. Brian Birdwell watched the television in his boss’ office as a second hijacked airplane slammed into the World Trade Center. The Army officer had no idea that minutes later madmen would ram a Boeing 757 into the Pentagon, just three windows away from his own office in the outermost ring. At 9:40 a.m. Brian was stepping out of the men’s room as a massive explosion hurled him to the floor. Instantly a fireball engulfed him. He could not get to his feet and agonized that he would never again see his wife, Melanie, and 12-year-old son, Matthew. But within seconds, an overhead fire sprinkler water on his charred body. Brian stumbled down the hallway and fellow Pentagon workers carried him to safety. Meanwhile, both Mel and Matthew were watching TV and saw the damage to the Pentagon. "I knew right away Brian’s office could not have survived that impact," Melanie reflects. Mom and son tearfully prayed together for Brian to have been out of his office at the time of the crash. Burns seared 61 percent of Brian’s body - 41 percent third-degree (arms and hands); the rest second-degree, scorching much of his face, ears, legs and back. Heavily sedated and clinging to life, Brian didn’t open his eyes for two days. The same day President and Mrs. Bush visited Brian. When President Bush greeted the bed-ridden Brian with a salute, the soldier painstakingly attempted to raise his heavily bandaged arms in a return salute. No eye was dry in the room. The next 12 weeks were the longest of Brian’s 40 years. Infection gnawed away at the remaining flesh on both arms. He required nearly 20 surgeries to cleanse wounds and graft on fresh skin. But Brian is not focusing on what he lost through the attack, but what he has gained. "My living through all this is one of God’s many miracles," Brian states. Of those endless days and nights at her husband’s bedside, Melanie says, "Now I don’t take things for granted as much. Your priorities change. The things that used to bother you in life, you now see that they are really not that important. Life is so precious and is so fragile.”

From a sermon by Joseph McGaha, As We Remember, 12/1/2009

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