This week marks 18 years since the 9/11 terror attacks. Most of us have seen the images of the devastation, but Christina Stanton and her husband, Brian, were among the thousands who lived it, as they tried to flee their homes and offices close to the burning World Trade Center towers.
But for Christina, it became a moment of a faith transformed.
"When the attacks happened I learned, 'Wow! I actually have no control,'" she said.
She realized that life offered few guarantees, that it wasn't just, "work hard and God will bless and prosper you."
"My worldview was totally changed."
Christina, a New York tour guide, writes about her experiences in a new book called "Out Of the Shadow of 9-11: An Inspiring Tale of Escape and Transformation."
It took her a decade-and-a-half to face the details of the day, realizing that she, along with probably thousands of other survivors, suffered a form of PTSD ... perhaps even of survivor’s guilt in the midst of more than 3,000 dead after the attacks on the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and the ditching of the plane in a Pennsylvania field. Then, of course, there are the scores of first responders who died trying to save others, and now today scores more deaths from the health problems as a result of inhaling the toxic mix of crushed glass and debris almost two decades ago.
But Christina's is a personal story of how, in a few short minutes, she went from upscale New Yorker to refugee, not knowing if she and her husband would survive the day.
She says, "I really had to start over from the very beginning. Who am I? Who am I in Christ?... I would call myself somebody who went to church on Sundays," but, "I really hadn't internalized the Bible, internalized who Jesus said he was, who I am in him."
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Christina could see the smoke billowing from the World Trade Center after the first plane hit. As she watched the black soot, the second plane flew within 500 feet of her 24th-floor balcony. The sound of the roaring engines knocked her down and out, rendering her temporarily deaf. She and her husband, a finance executive, grabbed what they could, his wallet, the dog and the dog's leash. Christina was still in her nightgown and no shoes.
In the book, Christina describes how they joined the throngs on the streets running for their lives. As the towers fell and the yellow debris covered everything, Christina and Brian, exhausted, stopped. She asked her husband: "Are we going to die?" He responded by saying the Lord's Prayer, “Our Father, who art in heaven…”
What's compelling about the narrative is that she never once blames or blasts the terrorists or Islam. She simply shows how life took on a whole different meaning and urgency. She couldn't live for accomplishments anymore. Neither of them could.
She soon became the director of missions for her church, and her husband left the world of Wall Street to become the CFO of the church. A drop in salary, but a rise in personal satisfaction to be in service to the only thing they said really matters, their Creator.