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FIRST-PERSON: Pentagon official recounts events that spared his life

WASHINGTON (BP)–In Jeremiah 29:11-13 the Lord boldly declares: “I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Those verses have never been truer for me than they were on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001.

My office was ground zero for the jet that hit the Pentagon. My office was totally destroyed, most of my co-workers were killed or severely injured, but I was spared. On that particular day, I was at my apartment waiting to receive a baggage shipment.

I checked into the Pentagon on Sept. 4 for an assignment as the public affairs officer for the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army for Personnel. I was assigned to a newly renovated wing of the Pentagon. I was overwhelmed by the strangeness of the Pentagon — who does what, what my role is.

I went through the process of checking in and meeting everybody I would work with and completed my processing requirements by Monday, Sept. 10. As part of my arrival requirements, I worked with the Transportation Office at a nearby military installation for delivery of my household goods from Hawaii.

They initially set up the delivery for my shipment to be on Sept. 6. When I called back to check the confirmation of that date, the person I spoke to said that the previous clerk had dropped the ball and I would have to wait a week to get my goods delivered. I was a little angry, but I resolved to take it in stride and make another appointment.

Little did I know that the date I chose for the delivery would be a decision that saved my life. I thought that I might have to meet my new boss, Lt. Gen. Maude on Monday, Sept. 10, so I chose to have my baggage delivered on Tuesday, Sept. 11.

I was sitting on my balcony watching and waiting for the moving company truck that was to deliver my baggage to arrive at 9:32 a.m. when I heard what I thought was a sonic boom. Then I heard fire trucks and ambulances rushing through the streets. I turned on the TV and was appalled to see that an American Airlines jet had crashed into the Pentagon. My shock continued as I watched the news come in about the World Trade Center in New York. I was watching when the twin towers came crashing down. My reaction was that I was watching the end of the world.

Then the most tragic news of all hit me like a hammer blow. The office where I work was the impact point of the crash. I learned that my boss and many of my co-workers were unaccounted-for and that if I had been at work that day I would not be writing this now.

What I have come to realize is that I have been given the ultimate gift from God — my salvation. If I had been there that day, I would have been ready for God to take me home. I also realize that I have been given a second gift, that God miraculously spared my life that day. I am truly grateful to Christ who gives me strength.

Some people describe me as lucky and that I was saved by a coincidence, but I believe that I am blessed. I know who saved me and his name is not luck. I do not believe that anything happens by accident. I believe that God spared me for his purposes; I have to be still and let him reveal his purpose for my life. Until that happens, I will tell everybody that I can about my miraculous gift.

I pray for all those people in our country who are searching for answers, that they will find the ultimate answer I have found — Jesus Christ. The Bible says that no man knows the time place of his death; therefore, be watchful and sober for the Lord will come like a thief in the night. My prayer is that those who were not ready to meet their maker found Jesus in those last few moments of their lives just like the thief on the cross.

In closing, I pray that every man, woman, boy and girl who reads my words will consider the meaning of life. I pray that after their careful and prayerful consideration they, like me, will give their life over to Jesus Christ and trust him as their Lord and Savior. I promise that if they do that they will have the promise that Jesus gives everyone, that they will have life and have it more abundantly.

I also pray that every Christian would be bold in their own witness. I believe that we have a narrow window of time to reach the lost because people are now open to the Word and because Jesus Christ is coming soon. We may have been born for such a time as this.
Childress is the public affairs officer for the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army for Personnel. He is a member of the First Baptist Church of North Spartanburg, S.C., and the brother-in-law of Keith Andrews, pastor of Padgett’s Creek (S.C.) Baptist Church.

    About the Author

  • Lt. Col. Franklin Childress