September 11, 2001, was a day that shook the United States. The terrorist attacks that took place are something that will remain in history books forever. I was very young at the time, but still have an ache in my heart whenever I think about the lives affected by this nationwide tragedy. This year, though, I thought specifically about members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who may have been affected on 9/11.
Brady Howell and his wife, Liz were living near the Pentagon on the day of the attack. When it was hit by one of the planes, their family back home in Utah immediately knelt in prayer. Brady’s family flew to Washington, D.C. to be with Liz and had to wait a week before learning that his death had been confirmed.
Camille, Brady’s sister, participated in an interview for the Church about the experience. She said, “I knew that Brady wasn’t lost forever and that we would see him again.” She continued,
I know that millions of people have suffered the loss of a loved one. Eventually, we all go through that experience. … I would tell [others] … that there are people who love them and care about them and want to support them and that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings hope. You can overcome it. That is a message that I would like to share—that hope isn’t lost, and life does go on.
Rhonda Rasmussen was actually in the same stake as Brady. She was working at the Pentagon that fateful day along with her husband, Floyd. Floyd worked on the floor above her and evacuated after feeling the impact.
“I tried to locate Rhonda,” he recalled. “I walked around calling her name, but I couldn’t find her.” After seeing the news, he knew that the American Airlines Flight 77 had hit right by Rhonda’s office. Unfortunately, her remains were lost in the fire. Floyd said,
I started thinking about my testimony. I remembered that I was sealed to Rhonda for time and eternity—she just made it into eternity ahead of me.
Carolyn Beug and Mary Alice Wahlstrom
Carolyn Beug’s twin daughters received scholarships to a design school in Rhode Island back in 2001. She decided to invite her mother, Mary Alice Wahlstrom, along for the trip when dropping them off. Carolyn and Mary Alice were on their way home when their plane was flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
Their family was supposed to pick them up from the airport that day. Mary Alice’s daughter-in-law said, “From the beginning, I knew that everything was in the Lord’s hands. For that reason, we had a lot of strength and purpose.” Over time, this trial has strengthened her testimony immensely. She said,
No matter if the stock market crashes, if bad things happen, if your dad loses his job, if you have to go through a divorce or anything else, the Lord is mindful of you. He’s in charge, and if we have faith that everything is going to be okay, I think we can get through anything. That’s the most important thing I’ve learned over the last 10 years.
Other Members Involved
Victor Guzman was working on the 85th floor of the North Tower on 9/11. He helped to evacuate everyone from his floor (which took almost an hour). Luckily, he made it out and was able to run before either of the towers collapsed.
Brent Belnap was serving as the president of the New York, New York, Stake and was on his way to work when he saw the smoke coming from the Twin Towers. He says that the Spirit strongly urged him to get to his office as soon as possible. There, he was one of the few who had phone service, was able to contact the bishops, and accounted for every single member of their stake. He said,
There were many tender mercies, many lives spared that day. There were several members who should have been at the World Trade Center that day but weren’t.
Members to the Rescue
Scott Baxter volunteered to help the Federal Emergency Management Agency and was sent to Ground Zero on the night of the 12th. He said that cleaning up the death and destruction was a very traumatizing experience.
Shaun Parry may have only been a Broadway performer, but he too offered his assistance after the 9/11 attacks. His flexibility earned him the nickname, “Spider-Man.” He was able to slip into small spaces and helped rescue nine people.
Messages From our Leaders
Throughout the years, leaders of the Church have given many messages of reassurance and peace regarding the events of 9/11. An official statement was released within hours of the attack. Later, President Hinckley gave an address in the Tabernacle on Temple Square. He said,
Dark as is this hour, there is shining through the heavy overcast of fear and anger the solemn and wonderful image of the Son of God, the Savior of the World, the Prince of Peace, the exemplar of universal love, and it is to him that we look in these circumstances. It was he who gave his life that all might enjoy eternal life. … May the peace of Christ rest upon us and give us comfort and reassurance and, particularly, we plead that he will comfort the hearts of all who mourn.
A year later, President Faust and President Monson spoke at a 9/11 memorial service held on Temple Square. President Monson said during the service,
Well remembered are the acts of bravery of those who did their best to save others and those who gave their lives in this heroic effort. In one of our beloved hymns are the comforting words, ‘In my Gethsemane, Savior and friend, constant He is and kind, love without end.’ (Hymns No. 129)
May we all take a moment today to remember those lost in the tragedies of September 11, 2001. How grateful I am for the miracles God provided on that day.
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