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“BRANDS FROM THE FIRE”

Fire fascinates us.  We are drawn to a fireplace.  During camping season, folks love to sit in the night air by a camp fire.  Candles illuminate homes for special occasions. Flickering gas lamps add ambiance to outdoor restaurants and venues.  A fiery grill creates an anxious anticipation to taste whatever is being cooked over the live coals and hot fire.

But, fires that are out of control are certainly not enticing or entertaining.  There is great fear when we feel the heat of a house fire that is fully engulfed.  The sights of fires melting metal beams after an explosion are terrifying.  Forest fires, airplane fires following a crash, fires of war that are the result of bomb’s explosions, and gas fires that are furious in their flaming create great images of horror that we do not ever want to see “live”.

We remember vividly where we were on 9/11 when we saw the fires in the first tower in New York and were told by news reporters that a plane had crashed into the building.  At first, we thought it was a terrible accident.  We would soon learn that was not the case.  What has been amazing is to learn about the lives of the survivors.  Here is a brief account of one of those that were saved “from the fires” of the Pentagon.

On September 11, Lt. Col. Brian Birdwell (from U.S. Army Headquarters) had just stepped into a Pentagon hallway when the fireball from the hijacked plane hit him. After recovering from the initial shock, Birdwell realized he was on fire. “Jesus, I’m coming to see you,” he remembers praying.

When doctors finally attended to him at the Washington Burn Center, they found second- and third-degree burns over 40 percent of Birdwell’s body. To save him, they performed several skin graft operations.

President George W. and First Lady Laura Bush visited the Washington Burn Center on September 13. Among those they visited was Birdwell. Laura Bush went into Brian’s room and spoke to him for about a minute, all the time as if they were life-long acquaintances. She then turned to Brian’s wife, Mel, who had been at the hospital for about two-and-a-half days. She was dirty, grimy, and wore a bloodstained shirt. Despite this, Laura hugged her for what Mel said seemed like an eternity, just as if Mel was one of her closest family members. Laura then told Brian and Mel that there was “someone” there to see him.

The President walked in. Standing by Brian’s bedside, the President told Colonel Birdwell that he was very proud of them both and regarded them as heroes. The President then saluted Brian. Brian slowly began to return the salute, taking about 15 to 20 seconds to get his hand up to his head because of his bandaged arms. During all of this, President Bush never moved. He dropped his salute only when Brian was finished with his. Birdwell lives now with renewed purpose. “I’m a walking miracle. Christ got me out of the fire. In him not taking me, that means I have a mission to complete.”  (Copied).