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How my faith has changed 20 years after losing my husband on 9/11

It’s hard to believe that it has been 20 years. It feels like a lifetime ago, but I still remember that day like it was yesterday. Sept. 11th, 2001, the day that changed my life forever. 

The pain, heartbreak, and emotional trauma that was thrust upon me when my husband and the father of my little girl died in the twin towers, I would not wish upon anyone. Year after year, as the date approaches, my body and mind attempt to go back to that place of fear and terror. I grieve, but not as those who have no hope.

My journey of healing since that fateful day has been centered on the freedom from fear that God alone can offer. I look to the maker of Heaven and Earth for my comfort and my help.

The second tower of the World Trade Center bursts into flames after being hit by a hijacked airplane in New York September 11, 2001.
The second tower of the World Trade Center bursts into flames after being hit by a hijacked airplane in New York September 11, 2001. | REUTERS/Sara K. Schwittek

Sometimes I feel like I have lived two different lives, but there is one thing that has remained the same: Jesus.

There is nothing that can compare to His Word and to His promises. Only He can make the painful things of our past the most beautiful blessings of our future. I have seen God’s glory show up in the midst of my pain, and His unexplainable peace cover me in the midst of my suffering. The lessons I have learned, I hold dear to my heart and consider them treasures. 

I can grow through my grief

I am not the same person I once was. In my darkest days, as I drew near to Christ, He drew near to me. I have never felt a closeness to the living God like I felt when my pain was so heavy that I could not bear to carry it on my own. I’ve learned who I am, but most importantly, who I am in Christ.

I am never alone

In my time of great sorrow, when I didn’t have the strength to pray or even words to say, the presence of God met me right where I was, comforting me in a way I’ve never been comforted before. He is Immanuel and is always with us. I trusted in Him alone and He never left my side. He will never leave you or forsake you if you simply trust Him.

Nothing can separate me from the love of God

Like the Apostle Paul, I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow — not even the power of Hell can separate us from God‘s love. Nothing that we are going through or have gone through can shake God’s everlasting love for each of us.

I can help others through my own grief

Taking the comfort we receive in the midst of our pain and bringing comfort to others who are hurting is truly what life is all about. God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When our family and friends are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. Sharing my story about the hope we have in Christ and His faithfulness was one of the most healing things I’ve ever done. Who knew as I poured my soul out on paper that God would use my story to touch the hearts of many? We do not go through bad circumstances in vain. Good things, bad things, all things can work together for His glory. He has a purpose and plan for everything.

Twenty years ago, I could not see happiness in my future. As I held on to a glimpse of hope and tried faithfully to walk with Christ, He illuminated a beautiful path for my life. I don’t think we will ever understand the ways of God on this side of Heaven. But how can we not trust a sovereign God who knows what we need before we even ask?

My prayers on that September day were not answered in the way in which I wanted them to be, yet my God who is bigger than my circumstances turned what was pure evil into a journey of healing. He picked up the shattered pieces of my life and made me whole again. So, on this Sept. 11th, I will praise the God who heard my prayers, collected my tears, never left my side, and has blessed me beyond measure.

Shelly Genovese Calhoun is a speaker, wife, mother, and author of the book “Twice Blessed: A Journey of Hope Through 9/11.” A former fashion model, she represented East Texas in the Miss Texas USA pageant. She resides in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with her husband, Heath, and their two children. Daughter Jacqueline is a senior at Texas A&M University and son Cash is a freshman in high school.

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