A story of Overcoming
8:43 am - September 11, 2001
I just stood there in the north facing window of Tower One, frozen in time. My heart was pounding in my chest as I watched my life fall from 90 stories high—reduced to tiny pieces of paper, bits of furniture and the broken bodies of my friends. I was sure that at any moment I’d simply stop breathing.
I remember it like it was yesterday and can describe every little detail. From the smells that filled the halls to the muffled cries of those trapped beneath layers of debris, the crushing metal and the “boom” of the final collapse; it’s all a part of me now. I escaped the building just before Tower Two crashed to the ground. And then, like a domino effect, my life followed.
Day after day, one piece of my world after the other collapsed and took me and my son, Eliot, deeper into despair. I was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — unable to even speak coherently. Eliot fought through depression, anger and relationships. The medical bills mounted, the mortgage fell behind and my illness intensified until finally, we became homeless. It was surreal to watch the world move on with its memorials and life celebrations while Eliot and I continued to struggle. We were trapped in a never-ending nightmare of 9/11, and every time I heard the names of the victims being read, I nearly expected to hear my own.
Once upon a time I believed that if I prayed a lot and trusted God, He would make my life easier. I thought that if I worked hard, I could rebuild what I’d lost. Not so. In fact it was as if the harder
I tried, the worse off things became. Finally, the grace of God pointed me to a different perspective and I began to focus on releasing rather than rebuilding.
You see, release means freedom. It sets us free from the striving, the expectations and the disappointments. Release lifts our vision far above the threshold of our circumstance and allows us to live beyond the limits of life’s difficulty and toward life’s opportunity; not in starting over, but starting from the place where we are. It is in release that we fully understand that freedom beyond the confines of your present circumstance will ultimately cause an unavoidable consequence … the transformation of circumstances. Hallelujah!
And so I stopped striving. I stopped struggling and ever-praying about that never ending list of things to do that would make life okay for Leslie. I set aside perceptions of what “should” be in exchange for what “is.” I moved forward in a faith that saw my situation as but one piece of a glorious and all encompassing journey spurred on by the move of God’s hand and filled with great expectations and even greater possibilities!
So where has that faith taken me?
I am persuaded that the victory over my struggles and the strength and passion I now have for life is a direct result of faith. I am living a new dream; traveling globally and encouraging others to live life without limits, love without demand and appreciate that living is a lot more than just a beating heart.
For Eliot, he has resumed work toward his degree in broadcast engineering and is creating his first music CD. Most importantly, he has returned to his faith in God. And even after losing so much so early in his life, he is not bitter and he encourages his peers in their own life journeys. On a larger scale, there is a screenplay in the works with Cloud Ten Pictures to tell our story that we believe will inspire millions.
You see, we believe that my story is everyone’s story… complete with the ups and downs, and ins and outs and all the go betweens. We all have those moments of struggle and even desperation that knock the wind out of us enough to wonder if we’ll ever breathe again.
As we journey through life, today might be marked by conflict and tension, last year might have been financial loss or human tragedy and tomorrow can be as right as rain.
And through it all, my challenge—and yours, too—is to not live bound by circumstance but embrace the bigger world of possibility, remembering that no story is complete without a challenge and victory is empty without a good fight.
And for that I’m so grateful. You see, in this, I can be assured of my ending this year, next year and always. A life without limits. A happy-ending story.
© Adapted by permission from the forthcoming book, When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, by Leslie Haskin (Bethany House Publishers, 2012)