I am reprinting three blogs this weekend that I have writtten over the past few years. Each of them focus on on the events of September 11th, 2001.
I do believe last night’s after dinner speech was the most inspiring presentation of that nature that I have ever heard. Retired Lt .Col. Brian Birdwell was the guest speaker at a Granbury Police Dept. banquet. I was privileged to sit next to him at the head table last night since part of my role was to lead the invocation. Col. Birdwell survived the terrorist attack on the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001.
During the course of his speech he shared with us the events of that fateful morning as they unfolded in his section of the Pentagon. One moment he was interacting in a light hearted way with two co-workers. A few moments later he left the office where they were talking, and started making his way to the men’s room. The rest is now history.
The two co-workers he was visiting with were killed instantly, when the plane struck the Pentagon. Down the hall from the office where had been standing minutes before the attack he suffered third degree burns over 60% of his body. Four valiant colleagues from another section of the Pentagon constructed a makeshift human stretcher to carry him to a triage area that was hastily put together in the Pentagon itself. During his speech Col. Birdwell described in detail what those early moments after the attack were like for him.
I am not very familiar with procedures for treating people who have suffered severe burns. After last night’s experience, I am now aware of more than I care to know. Col Birdwell experienced excruciating pain for months after his initial injuries were incurred. The treatment strategy for such extensive and damaging burns is very complicated and drawn out. He described being encased in a mummy type bandaging set up and trying to communicate with his family while in the ICU unit at the burn center. There were times he wanted to give up, and his loyal wife reminded him that he had hang in there for the benefit of their son. It was quite a story. Needless to say he had our undivided attention.
I was impressed with heroism. His story of perseverance was inspiring. Memories of that dark day flooded through my head. There was one particular element of his lecture that I will never forget. He expressed forgiveness toward those who instigated the attacks that day. He called on all of us to have forgiving spirits. You could almost hear the wheels turning in people’s heads, as he shared the emotional and spiritual aspects of his journey toward healing.
Col. Birdwell commended members of our military as well as those serving in police and fire services. He readily acknowledged that each of these groups face the reality of death, as they carry out their duties. He mentioned the fact that the military, police, and fire services all have chaplains on call, because of the inherent dangers of the job. As he addressed us, I never felt more affirmed in the area of service to which I have been called. I felt so fortunate to serve as a law enforcement chaplain. I recommend Col. Birdwell’s book entitled: Refined by Fire: A Family’s Triumph of Love and Faith. We all left last night inspired to serve more diligently.
Thank you, Col. Birdwell! We are thankful you are a part of the Granbury community.
May we never forget the real heroes among us.