A retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel and Texas State Senator who barely survived the 9/11 attack at the Pentagon was reunited with one of his rescuers after nearly fifteen years.
According to The Washington Post, Lieutenant Colonel was horribly burned during the airborne attack against the Pentagon on 9/11, when American Airlines Flight 77 was weaponized by Saudi Arabian hijackers.
“It hurts,” Birdwell said. “I was tossed around like a rag doll and wound up with 60 percent of my body burned, 40 percent of that being third-degree burns.”
Birdwell’s polyester uniform melted to his skin as he was engulfed in flames, the nose of the aircraft landing less than 20 meters away from where he was standing at the time. As he lay dying, he thought about his family.
Shortly afterwards, he found himself outside of the building, being hooked up to an IV by a medic. That is when he ran into Colonel Rob Maness, who was instructed to hold his leaking IV line.
Asking Birdwell’s name, Maness prayed with the stricken Lieutenant Colonel, telling him he would be okay- despite not finding out Birdwell’s true fate for over fifteen years.
“I hadn’t forgotten about that guy,” Maness said. “I never knew if he lived or not, but I prayed for him every day.”
Birdwell would spend 26 days in intensive care, later taking four years and 39 operations before he adequately recovered.
Maness never considered himself a hero in the situation, saying that people from all backgrounds showed up to help and that he was just one of many.
By chance or fate, the two would later become involved in politics, with Birdwell becoming a Texas State Senator and Maness a candidate for a US Senate seat in Louisiana. By chance, they happened to inadvertently track each other down by way of Texas Governor Rick Perry at the Republican National Convention earlier this month.
Within minutes of trading accounts, they realized who they had just respectively run into.
“We had a really big hug that had the gravity and emotion of two comrades in arms,” Birdwell said. “This wasn’t just someone in the building, this was someone who the Lord had as close to me 15 years ago as he was standing next to me in the room there with Governor Perry.”
Both men had started nonprofits- one to assist burn victims and the other to assist in the fight against veteran suicides. They both have vowed to stay in each other’s lives from now on.
“Rob played a part in me being able to do those things and that’s pretty special,” Birdwell said. “It’s a whale of a fraternity with one hell of an initiation.”
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