Change is in the air
Can you hear it in the wind?
Change is in the sky
Can you see it in the stars?
Change is in my heart
Can you hear it in the beat?
Change is on my mind
Can you see it in my eyes?
Change is tumbling through
the streets and mountain tops
Change is taking me
to places I've never been
Change is coming for you
whether you like it or not
Change is almost here
hold on to what you got
The 11th anniversary on 9/11 is this week. Today I watched a 2 hour special on 9/11 on MSNBC and I was reminded of an extraordinary special I saw on TLC last year. It was called "Heroes of the 88th Floor." I noticed it is re-airing this week. If you have a chance to watch it I highly recommended it. Last September 25th I gave a talk in church and I thought I'd post it here. I'm still trying to keep my promise to never, ever forget.
I fear many things in life due to the fact that I watched “Rescue 911” as a kid. I can’t remember many specific incidents on the show but several overall impressions stick with me even today. (1.) Whitewater rafting is dangerous. (2.) You are really in trouble if you’re being lifted out by helicopter. (3.) It is a very good idea to learn CPR. The most important impression was (4.) There are everyday heroes. Many times the stories of the incidents portrayed on the show were recounted by the victims and the rescuers – both professional and civilian Good Samaritans who happened to be close enough to help. Paramedics and 911 dispatchers were often reunited with people they had helped and it was so joyful to witness the bond shared between people who would otherwise be strangers. While I may have grown into a somewhat trepid adult, watching shows like “Rescue 911” “Top Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted” solidified in me a desire to be a rescuer.
When I graduated from high school in 2001 I planned to realize my dreams of heroism by becoming a paramedic. After careful consideration I thought it would be best to earn a bachelor’s degree before beginning EMT training. One morning during my first semester of junior college I woke up in time for my first class. After groggily listening to my clock radio for a minute I realized something was very wrong. I turned on my television to see images of the Twin Towers collapsing. To tell you the truth I had no idea the World Trade Center even existed. I was 17 and I had never once thought of the financial district in New York City. I’m sure many of you remember seeing cars with American flag stickers and hastily printed t-shirts that said things like, “United We Stand,” and “We Will Never Forget.” I promised to do the same.
Much has changed in the last 10 years. I never became a paramedic. I’ve accomplished a few things but there are some promises I’ve fallen down on. I’d like to say that I’ve constantly kept the victims of 9/11 in my heart and mind. In truth I have forgotten, remembered, and forgotten again. Just as specific episodes of “Rescue 911” have faded from my memory, the overall impression I remember from 9/11 was that there are those that seek to destroy us. “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things,” (2 Nephi 2:11). Each Sunday we have a chance to remember the sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ and the covenants we have made as members of His church. The sacramental prayers, found in D&C Section 20, implore that we remember the body and blood of the Son, that we are willing to take His name upon us, always remember him and keep his commandments, that we may have his Spirit to be with us. (D&C 20:77-78).
Unfortunately days, weeks and years constantly pass us by. Before we know it we find ourselves saying, “I can’t remember the last time I bore my testimony, or really considered the atonement…” Instead we have a bright awareness of the last time we were reminded of the “opposition in all things.” The steps we take on our life’s journey become a little more cautious, a little less guided, and a little more burdensome. Satan would gladly cloud the path to righteousness and point our faces to the ground in shame and frustration. In John 8:12 Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (In Leviticus 26:12 we read, “And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.”) Psalms 138:7 reads, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me.” In a revelation given to Joseph Smith in D&C 90:24 we read, “Search diligently, pray always and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if you walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another.” In Mosiah 18:8-9 we are reminded of the baptismal covenant: we are to come into fold of God, be called his people, bear one another’s burdens, mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that stand in need of comfort, stand as witnesses of God even until death that we may be redeemed of God, be numbered with those of the first resurrection, and have eternal life.
Why are we asked to stand as witnesses of God even until death? Perhaps it is because the Savior willingly died for us, but not before suffering for the sins of the entire world. Jesus Christ understood our Father’s plan and he willingly obeyed it. In “Jesus the Christ” President James E. Talmage wrote, “Christ’s agony in the garden is unfathomable by the finite mind, both as to intensity and cause. … He struggled and groaned under a burden such as no other being who has lived on earth might even conceive as possible. It was not physical pain, nor mental anguish alone, that caused Him to suffer such torture as to produce an extrusion of blood from every pore; but a spiritual agony of soul such as only God was capable of experiencing. ... In that hour of anguish Christ met and overcame all the horrors that Satan, ‘the prince of this world’ could inflict. ...”
We cannot relate to the pain Christ suffered in Gethsemane. We have a vague understanding of the physical torture he endured after being taken into custody and before He commended His spirit to our Father in Heaven. Mocked and scorned to the brink of death, Jesus, having endured several hours on the cross, cried out, (p. 613) “‘My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?’ What mind of man can fathom the significance of that awful cry? It seems, that in addition to the fearful suffering incident to crucifixion, the agony of Gethsemane had recurred, intensified beyond human power to endure. In that bitterest hour the dying Christ was alone, alone in the most terrible reality. That the supreme sacrifice of the Son might be consummated in all its fullness, the Father seems to have withdrawn the support of His immediate Presence, leaving to the Savior of men the glory of complete victory over the forces of sin and death.”
How can we not love someone who has gone through all of this for us? John 15:13 reads, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” 2 John 1:6 says, “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments.” Elder James E. Faust said, “Blessed are those who need no reasons other than their love for the Savior to keep his commandments,” (1991). What is the greatest commandment of all? “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” (Matt 22:37-39). For me personally it is a little easier to believe in the goodness of mankind when I hear about acts of heroism. It is a little easier to secretly serve a complete stranger than to openly profess love to those I am closest to. I think it would be easy to push a child out of the way of oncoming traffic. Why is it so hard to pull myself out of a life of sin? Perhaps I hope my final act would merit me some special consideration in the judgment. In the April 2011 General Conference Elder Russell M. Ballard said, “We live to die, and we die to live again. From an eternal perspective, the only death that is truly premature is the death of one who is not prepared to meet God.” We cannot be prepared to meet God if we cannot make the effort to remember his commandments and the sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We know better.
Just as every Sunday gives us a palpable opportunity to remember the atonement, every September 11th give us an opportunity to honor the events that unfolded in 2001. TLC prepared a special program called “Heroes of the 88th Floor” which aired two weeks ago. It focused on two Port Authority workers, Frank De Martini and Pablo Ortiz, who worked on the 88th floor of the North Tower. After the plane struck they painstakingly worked their way upstairs to the 91st floor, rescuing trapped people all along the way. One of the men they rescued was Thomas Haddad who worked on the 89th floor. Thomas and his colleagues recalled the calm manner in which everyone descended the 2,000 steps to the exit. Many remarked that if even one person had lost it and pushed their way down to ground level there would have been massive panic. Instead everyone was orderly, calm and concerned for one another’s well-being. Thomas had reached the lobby and exited the building and he couldn’t comprehend the scene of devastation outside. Eventually he stopped walking and at that moment he heard the glass begin to crack in the South Tower. Although the South Tower was hit second, it was the first to fall. Thomas ran from the debris cloud but it came too fast. He thought, “This is it. I’m going to get hit.” He said the debris cloud hit him like cement. He couldn’t see anything and the noise was so completely overpowering his ears only understood silence. He was completely alone and convinced this would be the end of him. He sat on the ground as the fight drained out of him. “Just let it happen,” he told himself. “Just let it go. It’s okay.” Then something remarkable happened. He was reminded of a conversation he’d had with his wife days after the anniversary of the death of her father who had died when she was 15. “Whatever you do don’t leave me. Don’t leave me young.” Out of love for his wife and respect for the promise he’d made to her, he managed to pull himself off the ground. He envisioned what the street had looked like before the blinding ash cloud had covered everything familiar. He knew there was a sidewalk and a building. He put his shirt over his face and held his hands out. He walked to the curb and straight into the building where he remained safe from further physical peril.
At this time the North Tower was still standing and Frank and Pablo were still inside. They were last seen on the 78th floor. In the hour and 42 minutes before the North Tower fell they managed to save the lives of 77 people. To know the names of two more people who were in the North Tower when it collapsed changed my view completely. I lost brothers and sisters that day. We all did. Due to the sheer number of people who witnessed the heroic acts of Frank and Pablo and lived to tell about it their story will not be forgotten. We all know there were more stories of heroism that for now must remain untold. There were more lives lost than we can comprehend. Families will never be able to bury their loved ones but we know that in the perfect plan of our Heavenly Father all families can be eternal. Though we may not all be trained as professional rescue workers we can be saviors on Mount Zion through serving in the temple. As President Gordon B. Hinckley stated, “Just as our Redeemer gave His life as a vicarious sacrifice for all men, and in so doing became our Savior, even so we, in a small measure, when we engage in proxy work in the temple, become as saviors to those on the other side who have no means of advancing unless something is done in their behalf by those on earth,” (General Conference 2004).
Brothers and sisters, our world is falling. Don’t let those you know fall with it. We have much work to do now as Latter-day Saints. I take great comfort in knowing that those who have perished, those who have been turned to dust in Satan’s war on humanity, will one day be fully restored. “O how great the plan of our God! For one the other hand, the paradise of God must deliver up the spirits of the righteous, and the grave deliver up the body of the righteous; and the spirit and the body is restored to itself again, and all men become incorruptible, and immortal, and they are living souls, having a perfect knowledge like unto us in the flesh, save it be that our knowledge shall be perfect. Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanliness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness,” (2 Nephi 9:13-14). Please don’t forget the promises of our Lord. Let us not neglect the plight of those who have passed from this life without knowledge of the gospel. May we walk in faith and never in fear is my humble prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.