Where is God when tragedy strikes? When your life is filled with darkness and despair? When you are told by your doctor that you have cancer or a loved one is killed in a horrible accident? In his autobiography, “Touched By The Hand Of God,” Joseph Radosti shares his personal experiences as he struggles to find answers.
|Cover of the book with Radosti at Ten House, the firehouse across from World Trade Center|
Here is his story written for the ASSIST News Service about his life and struggles:
I grew up in Brooklyn and Long Island, New York. I went to school at St. Francis of Assisi in Brooklyn. I used to hide under my bed to avoid attending Sister Agnistine’s first-grade class. I knew that when I sat down in her classroom she would find some reason to beat the heck out of me. Many times I would vomit in her classroom and she would put my face in it. She put fear in all her student’s hearts. She represented a distorted view of God to me.
In 1979, I failed to make the University of Minnesota, Duluth (UMD) hockey team. I was devastated. I picked up a Bible that was in the nightstand drawer and started to read it. I believe that was the first time I read the scriptures. My life was empty and I tried to fill it with things that could not satisfy my spiritual hunger for God. I ended up becoming very ill with mononucleosis. When the school year was over I went back home for the summer. My parents were very disappointed when they saw me. I had lost a lot of weight and my complexion was green. I wasn’t going back to UMD the following year. Instead I remained on Long Island and finished my bachelor’s degree program at Dowling College.
The Lord was working in my life and I couldn’t resist His presence any longer. One night after partying with my girlfriend, I came home and fell to my knees in tears. The Holy Spirit was overwhelming me. I asked God to forgive me and to fill my life. My relationship with Him grew stronger and deeper over the years but certainly not without trials.
On September 10, 2001, I started a new job as a Financial Executive for Citicorp Investment Services. I was scheduled to report for training at Citibank’s training facility on Fifteenth Street and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. The next day was Tuesday, September 11, 2001 better known as 911. It was a beautiful, bright, clear autumn day in New York.
I was living on Long Island and commuted by train to my destination in New York City, about an hour and a half door to door. I walked up the stairs from the subway station and the brightness of the sun made me squint. The city streets were bustling with life. I proceeded to walk the rest of the way to the building where my training class was to take place. I showed my identification badge to the security officer who was posted at the entranceway to the building, then rode the elevator up to the floor where my class was located and sat down to read the Wall Street Journal.
|The moment of collision on 9/11 of flight UA175 Boeing 767 jet with the south tower causing a huge explosion seen from side of entry|
A few minutes later someone yelled, “A plane flew into the World Trade Center!” We all ran to the windows that lined the perimeter of the classroom. We were about a mile from ground zero and we could see the smoke coming from the North Tower. Someone turned on the projector television and we listened to the commentators on CNBC speculate as to the reason for the tragedy. Suddenly another commercial jet came roaring across the sky at full throttle. It turned and headed straight towards the South Tower. Several people yelled, “No!” I wanted to reach out and stop the pending death and destruction but I was helpless to do so. Within seconds a huge fireball erupted from the building as the jet disintegrated. The flame that propelled from the explosion was bright red and swelled backward like a Tsunami. There was silence in our classroom and I felt as though I had just been punched in my stomach by Mohammed Ali.
|A plane about to crash into the World Trade Center|
I rushed off to call my fiancée Claire who had a doctor’s appointment scheduled that afternoon in New York City. Instead of Claire, I got her sister Coleen who was sitting in a train headed to New York from Connecticut. She had borrowed Claire’s phone and was planning on doing some sightseeing. I said, “Coleen New York is under attack! Two commercial jets were just flown into the Twin Towers. Get the first train you can back to Connecticut.”
A group of us got in a cab and headed to the Citibank Park Avenue branch to see if we could help out. The phone lines were dead, but by some miracle I was able to reach my friend Jeff who later called Claire and my mom for me. Some of us walked to the other side of town to see if we could give blood, but when we arrived at our destination we were told that none was needed.
We learned that both towers had collapsed. I was dejected and nauseated. Later that day I was able to catch a train back to Long Island. I thought about the people that perished and their families. I prayed, cried and asked why? Over the next days, weeks and months I struggled with anxiety, depression and memories of what was the worst day of my life.
If 9/11 was hell, May 25, 2002 was paradise. It was the day I married Claire Kennelly. Our wedding took place at the First United Methodist Church in Greenwich, Connecticut. It was an absolutely perfect spring day.
A few months later, in August, I developed intense pain in my abdomen. I was referred by my physician Sunil Rana to a gastroenterologist, Alan Selkin, who recommended that I have a colonoscopy. I followed his advice and had the procedure. Afterwards I woke up still groggy from the anesthesia. Dr. Selkin came rushing towards me with a big smile on his face and full color photos of a tumor inside my intestine. He said. “Joe I do forty of these procedures a week and you have cancer.” I was shocked and in denial.
I shared the news with my family and friends. I prayed and sought guidance from the Lord. I wrote scriptures and prayers in a notebook that later became my journal. While praying and studying early one morning, I heard the Lord speak to my heart, “I will shield you with my wings, I will shelter you with my feathers.” I wrote Psalm 91 in my notebook and meditated on it night and day. One week later I received a call while I was out grocery shopping with Claire. It was Dr. Selkin. He said, “Joe, I don’t understand it. The biopsy report came back and you don’t have cancer.” After a second colonoscopy it was determined that I had Crohn’s ileitis. I was put on a steady diet of prescription medications that failed to reduce the size of the tumor. I ended up in the emergency room of Greenwich Hospital.
|Photos of those missing on 9/11|
I had to have surgery to remove the diseased part of my intestine. Everything was going fine for a few days but on Thursday, September 12, 2002 while resting in my bed, I developed pain and couldn’t breathe. I yelled to Claire, “Get help. I can’t breathe!” That was the last thing that I remembered. I began a long journey through the valley of the shadow of death. At times I was semi-conscious and I remember hearing voices and loud noises. I even remember praying, “Lord help me, Lord save me.” I couldn’t speak, move, eat or drink. I was an invalid. I was totally dependent upon others to care for me and I was totally dependent upon God to rescue me.
I did have my notebook with me and Claire found it and started reading my prayers and the scriptures along with the encouraging words that I wrote. She shared it with my caretakers. Then the medical team came to Claire one day and asked if she would like to donate my organs. Claire responded, “That wouldn’t be necessary. Joe is going to be OK. God has plans for Joe.” Claire emailed friends and relatives and before long people from around the country began to pray for me.
One night, as my mom was asleep, she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned around but my father was sound asleep. She then heard a voice say, “Don’t worry. He is going to be alright.” A few days later the ICU team was gathered around my bed. They needed to see if I was able to breathe on my own. There was silence as they disconnected the respirator; then a breath; I was breathing on my own again. Everyone was jubilant. I continued my miraculous recovery.
On November 1, 2002, I was released from the hospital and after a short stay at Burke Rehabilitation hospital, I headed home. I was brought to tears when I read Claire’s e-mails and the responses that she received. There were cards and letters being sent to our apartment. I even got a Teddy bear. I received a great deal of encouragement from my then Pastor Ken Keifer who encouraged me to do whatever the Lord put on my heart. So I started a Healing Ministry. The more I encouraged others the more inspired I felt to go forward.
My health was improving but my marriage was failing and in 2004 Claire and I separated. I moved from Greenwich, Connecticut to Cadiz, Kentucky, about 75 miles northwest of Nashville, Tennessee. One night, I received a phone call from Claire and she said she wanted a divorce. She told me that she was sick and I wasn’t there for her when she needed me. It was like a dagger had just been thrust through my heart. I had lost my best friend.
I prayed, fasted, and read the scriptures for many months. Jesus was becoming my very best friend. In the midst of darkness and despair as I traveled through the valley of the shadow of death, He found me. The Lord had to teach me about forgiveness. He had to teach me to trust Him no matter what hardship or tragedy I face in my life. It’s in the valley that I learned that it’s only Jesus, the Way (John 14:6), who can lead us out from the valley to the mountain of God.
My prayer journal was experiencing a metamorphosis and turning into my autobiography. After many years and many revisions, I have completed my story. It’s called, “Touched By The Hand Of God.” I published it as an independent author on Smashwords. Follow the link or paste it in your browser. http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/39345
Joseph Radosti — His name means he shall add happiness and joy — is a speaker, writer, author and blogger. He leads a support group at his local church, Worldwide Grace Fellowship, Clarksville, Tennessee. He offers hope to those who find themselves lost in a place of darkness and despair. He is passionate about encouraging and inspiring those who are sick, grieving and traveling through the valley of the shadow of death. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org