Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering September 11, 2001

I was on a mission in Northern Illinois for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on September 11, 2001. I had been on my mission for over 1 year. The majority of the time on my mission was spent serving the Sailors in the United States Navy on their training bases in Chicago. The Navy Boot camp is located in a suburb outside of Chicago.

As a missionary, we serve with other missionaries (called companions) by teaching the people in our area about Jesus Christ and his gospel. Serving on the Navy base was a different type of area in a regular proselyting mission. It was a non-proselyting area. We did not solicit religion. We simply lived the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Lord directed people to us who were interested in learning more about the gospel.

The months leading up to September 11, 2001 were packed with what we would call a season palnting and of harvest. The Sailors were so ready for the gospel. My companions and I volunteered in many different ways on the Navy bases. In their USO's for example, their Thrift Stores, and in many other ways. We would attend every single Pass and Review (Boot Camp graduation.) During these ceremonies we sat on the stand with officers and honored guests. When we were not volunteering we were teaching the gospel. During this time the director of the USO had a religious meditation room built for the Sailors and us to conduct our spiritual discussions. This time was an incredible experience. Little did we know what lay ahead of us.

On the morning of September 11th we woke up and studied just like every other day. That morning after study time we left for a District Meeting with all of the other missionaries in our area. I remember that the sky was a beautiful blue, the sun was shining, and the air was perfect temperature, and it was quiet. It is important to mention that as missionaries we do not watch television of any kind, we don't listen to the radio, and we don't read newspapers while on our mission. So we live quite a secluded lifestyle.

As we entered the parking lot of the church the first thing that struck us as odd is that the other missionaries were still sitting in their cars. We parked and began walking toward them and they rushed to us and told us that someone had flown into the twin towers in New York. They had been told by one of their neighbors and they immediately turned on their car radio. We rushed to listen just as the second plane flew into the second tower.

The feeling that overcame us was chilling. I can feel it even now as I write this. For my companions and I this single event impacted us more then any of the other missionaries in our mission. We instinctively knew that this blatant attack was an act of war. War had taken on new meaning for us. We now knew and loved those men and women who would fight this war for us. We knew that the Navy base that we served would be strongly secured and there was a very real possibility that we would not be allowed on the base ever again. But we also knew something else...

We knew that our Father in Heaven loves the men and women serving in our armed forces. We knew that we had very pure intentions to serve these Sailors and bring them the hope and guidance that they would need in such a difficult time. And we KNEW that it was the will of the Lord for us to serve them directly and be in their midst. We knew that without a doubt.

When I need a reminder of what it feels like to have true faith, I think of this moment. We knew what the Lord's will was, and we knew that He would open up a path for us to do His will. We just had to move forward.

After our meeting we went directly home. I will never forget how it felt to be so clearly guided by the Lord. We as sisters (missionary companions) were all of one mind and one spirit in this endeavor to go out and gather our Sailors. The following is what we were directed to do through the gift of the spirit.

We went home and began a batch of chocolate chip cookies to give to the Sailors, just like we always did. As they cooked we all changed our clothes into our most professional looking dress suits with our military issued black dress shoes. We knelt down and prayed fervently for guidance and for a miracle. We then left for the Great Lakes Navy Base. As we drove we were all in a state of humbled silence and prayer.

We had a list of Sailors that we had to talk to. These were Sailors who were scheduled to fly out that day (before the attacks), Sailors who were scheduled to be baptized during the upcoming Sunday services, Sailors who were in the middle of learning about the gospel, and the Sailors who were members of the little Branch of the church organized on the Navy Base. Before we left we prayed for each of these Sailors by name and asked the Lord to direct them to us.

As we got closer and closer to the base we realized that Every Sailor had been called to report to the base. We also realized that the base was under lock down (meaning no civilians allowed.) We knew what the protocol would be as we arrived on the base. We knew that they would search our car and review our entrance pass. When we finally arrived at the gates we knew that if we were allowed onto the base at this critical time, we would be able to continue to enter throughout the months to follow.

The entrance was lined with military police, with their guns and their dogs. We said one last prayer that the gates would be opened, and drove forward. We had a car in front of us that was being search and a car behind us that needed to be searched. Just as we got to the point that the guard taking care of us would have needed to pay closer attention to us if he wanted to send us away, he got distracted for a second. Whether he already knew who we were (which is possible) or he just felt that all was well, it doesn't really matter. What matters is that, He Flagged Us Through! We drove onto the base and away from the earshot of the guards and we let out a celebration filled scream! Behold, the gates were opened!

We knew that a miracle had taken place. Because of this, we had no doubt that we were supposed to be there and it gave us a tremendous amount of confidence in the will of the Lord. We parked our car and literally said, "Father please lead them to us." We could not go into their living quarters like we usually did. They had to come to us. And they did!

As we walked up the streets, one by one every one of the Sailors that we had on our list eventually found us. Truly a humbling experience... We wanted to learn more about what was happening in New York and now that we had all of us together we went to the Galley where there was food and televisions.

As we were there visiting with all of the Sailors, the acting Admiral of the Great Lakes Navy Base came into the Galley to mingle with the Sailors. When he saw us he came to us and gave us a hug. We knew each other from attending the pass and Reviews together as well as other events. He told us that we were needed at Great Lakes at this time and if Anyone tried to give us a hard time, to let them know that they could contact The Captain. We appreciated and used his suggestion on more then one occasion throughout out the next couple of months.

That night after we came home I will never forget the feelings of sadness for the tragic events that took place that morning and the life's that were taken. As well as the incredible confirmation of the power of our Savior Jesus Christ and His will and work.

I sat in our little apartment and recorded the address to the nation that President Bush gave. I remember the patriotism that I felt at that moment and was overwhelmed with gratitude that I had been allowed to witness the hand of the Lord so clearly that day.

There are many horrible things that happen throughout our world. Things that can weary the mind and tear down the spirit. But, if we will try to change our perspective a little and focus on the little miracles that take place after these horrible events, it makes things a little bit more bearable.

1 comment:

Sharane said...

What an amazing experience! I really have so much respect for all of those who serve our country in any branch of the military. My brother is in the national guard and he has been to Iraq twice already.
I love your blog! You have such great spiritual strength, thank you for your wonderful example! Also, your boys are sooo cute! I love Jakob's facial expressions and poses on his blog, they always make me laugh!

-Sharane :)

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