Waco Hall service honors Sept. 11 lives

The shadow of Chris Braman is seen at the entrance of the 911 memorial at the Pentagon, August 22, 2011 which is dedicated to the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks.McClatchy Tribune

By Grace Gaddy

The memory of those who lost their lives on the morning of Sept. 11, many while selflessly serving to save others, was lifted high during a special commemoration service Sunday in Waco Hall.

“Baylor Remembers: A Service of Remembrance” featured 9/11 survivor and Texas Senator Brian Birdwell as the keynote speaker. Birdwell related details of his own recollections of that day, starting when he first arrived in his office at the Pentagon.

“That morning started off as any other day,” Birdwell said, quickly adding that “the reality of that day” had not yet arrived.

He remembered stepping out to use the restroom, at which he told colleagues he would “be back momentarily.”

But that moment never came.

“Those were the last words that I would speak to my two coworkers, because there was no thought that the Pentagon was the third target, or that there were more beyond just those of the World Trade Center,” Birdwell said.

Birdwell was thrown to ground level and suffered burns consuming 60 percent of his body, half of which were third degree. He was carried to Georgetown University Hospital, at which doctors worked fervently to save his life. Though he remembered being in excruciating physical pain, the “hardest thing” came through sighting a familiar face, he said.

“Just under the little baseball cap he was wearing, I could see in his 12-year-old eyes the pain and agony of walking in and seeing that his father was dying and the suffering that we were enduring as a family,” Birdwell said, “and seeing him say, ‘I love you, Daddy.’”

Birdwell, unable to speak, remembered mouthing the words, “I love you too, son.”

“I was having that moment of ‘it is finished,’” he said.

Birdwell added that he now has an ever-so slight idea of what it was like for the heavenly Father “to say goodbye to his Son for three days,” he said.

He then noted that many personal challenges were to follow that day, and many more for America as a whole.

“We made a lot of decisions about life that day, and we still make a lot of decisions about life,” Birdwell said.

He noted that the “key difference” distinguishing America from a terrorist world is that “we love life,” he said.

He drew special attention to the men and women who faced the “tug of death” that fateful day, as they still do today in service as firefighters, policeman and those in the military.

Baylor Law School alumnus J.D. Ressetar, whose survival account from the attack on the South Tower was aired during the service, shared Birdwell’s sentiment.

“The one thing that I think everybody should remember about September 11 is the police and firefighters that really were trying to help everybody escape, and that those are the people that died saving so many lives,” Ressetar said.

Ressetar was on the 58th floor of the South Tower when Flight 175 crashed into it.

U.S. Representative Bill Flores also spoke during the service, reminding that God is a God of restoration, and he will faithfully restore this nation and country if we call out to him on our knees, he said.

He added that the service of the day provided “an opportunity to pause and pay tribute to the innocent victims of September 11, to the selfless first responders who prevented further loss of life, and to our military men and women around the world who bravely serve to protect our freedom.”

Baylor President Ken Starr gave the closing remarks and benediction.

Starr said that while the day of Sept. 11 will always remind us of the “profound evil of the fallen world,” it also reveals the “remarkable goodness in the human heart, powerfully illustrated by the mighty examples of the men and women who were willing to pay the ultimate price.”