Local Author Emphasizes Importance of Faith During Tragedy
Fairview resident, Shelly Genovese Calhoun is the author of “Twice Blessed – A Journey of Hope Through 9/11.” She said, “Twice Blessed talks about my journey to find my new husband. I have been blessed to have two incredible men in my life.” The message of the book is God’s faithfulness, comfort and hope in times of devastation. She said, “You find out what you believe in when you are in such a dark and broken place. You find out where you can find your hope.”
Shelly met her first husband, Steve Genovese, while she was modeling in Dallas. Steve was in Dallas for a convention with Cantor Fitzgerald (A global financial services firm founded in 1945). She said, “It was love at first sight. Steve was tall, dark and handsome. I completely fell in love with him, it was like nothing I had known before. He swept me off my feet. He was a very polished, put-together Wall Street guy. Even though he was very successful, he always made everyone feel very comfortable. He could talk to anybody. He loved to ride Harleys and motor cross. He was very adventurous, he loved skydiving and zip lining. He was a thrill seeker.” She said that Steve was attracted to her because of her southern roots and that she was down-to-earth. He said, “I had to come all the way to Texas to find a wife.” The couple married in 1995 and lived in New Jersey. Shelly continued her modeling career and enjoyed all that New York had to offer. The newlyweds enjoyed riding Harley’s together. In 2000, their daughter Jacqueline was born. The young family liked taking strolls around the block and just doing life together.
Steve was a partner and over the counter trader with Cantor Fitzgerald. He worked on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower. On Sept. 11, 2001, he was one of the 658 Cantor Fitzgerald employees who were killed in the North Tower.
Facing her new reality, she said she found comfort through Jesus Christ. “I put my faith and trust in Him and He got me through everything. I don’t know how anyone could get through a tragedy without knowing Christ. I looked at others going through 9/11 and watched them grieve like I had never seen anyone grieve before. I felt like I had something not everybody had. Of course, that was Jesus and the hope that I had in Him. I knew he would take care of me, provide for me and never leave me or forsake me.” She feels that she had a supernatural strength where, “He was holding me up.” She adds, “There were times when I wasn’t saying these beautiful prayers. There were times when I would just sit in my closet and cry out to Him and say, ‘Lord help me’. I didn’t know what to pray for. I was so lost and broken. I feel like the prayers of everyone else got me through everything.”
Her family also provided comfort. Before Sept. 11, her mother had arrived for a visit. This, according to Shelly, is another showing of God’s grace. Right after the attack, all flights were grounded, additional family members arrived as soon as possible.
She and baby Jacqueline moved back to Texas very quickly after 9/11 to be with her family. For many years, Shelly and Jacqueline visited New York every year. She said, “I wanted New York to be a part of who she was. I didn’t want her to not know that part of her life. I wanted her to know what Steve loved in that part of the country.”
She married her current husband, Heath Calhoun, in Nov. of 2005. She said, “I resisted it for a while. I was scared to fall in love again. I felt like I was cheating when I first started dating. I wondered if I would be judged. Would people think I never really loved my first husband if I could date and love again? That was a long journey. I pushed him away several times, and he kept coming back. God just kept putting him back in my life. I almost lost the chance of finding true love again because of a fear of loving again. God made it all new. I feel so blessed that God worked this out and I am happily married.”
She, along with many others, are called 9/11 widows. She explained how she feels about that title, “At first I did public speaking in churches and women’s groups. I felt like that was my purpose, it was the first year after 9/11. And then, I just wanted to be Shelly again. I didn’t want to be looked at as a 9/11 widow. I didn’t want my identity to be that.” She chose to stop taking public speaking engagements. Even when she did that, she felt like she was turning away from her purpose. She adds, “18 years later, He (God) brought me back to it.” She defines her purpose, “To tell my story. To tell about God’s faithfulness through my journey. I don’t want my story to be in vain. I don’t want everything that happened to me and Steve to be in vain. I want everyone to know of God’s goodness through it. He was there in the midst of my darkest days.” Steve was a Christian and that fact gives Shelly great comfort.
On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, she felt like God was tugging on her heart to tell her story. While writing the book, she experienced self-doubt because she had very limited writing experience. She said, “I knew I was called to do this. Not to be a great writer, but to tell my story from my heart.” She hand-wrote the book, pen to paper. Up until the release of her book she typically kept to herself and was afraid of the vulnerability her book would reveal. She did it as an act of obedience to God. Her family had been praying for this book for eight years. It was released in Aug. 2019. Since that time, she has been inundated with interview requests. She said, “I feel like this will really stir up faithfulness. That’s what I love about this.” The book is available to purchase on Amazon.
The family has lived in Fairview for 14 years. Jacqueline Genovese is a 2018 Lovejoy graduate. Cash Calhoun is in 7th grade at Willow Springs Middle School.