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Dear Sariah, Today is 9/11.

September 11, 2007

Today is the sixth anniversary of one of the most jarring and disturbing events in modern history. You will likely read about it in a history book. Maybe you will see a movie or a documentary on it when we commemorate the twentieth anniversary. It’s been called a lot of things by a lot of people. Lately I have heard it labeled as “The day the world changed forever”. Or, more briefly: 9/11.


I thought you might be interested to know what your Dad was up to that day. I can recite the details to you rather simply now because it is one of those events that cements itself in the minds of those who experience it.

On September 11, 2001, I awoke around 5:00 am, turned off my alarm and slid off my bed. I said a brief prayer. It was brief primarily because if I stayed there too long with my eyes closed and my head down, I would fall asleep. After my morning prayer, I showered, shaved and dressed in black pants, a white shirt, a conservative tie and comfortable dress shoes. I slid my nametag into my pocket:

Elder Moore

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Walking out into the living room of my apartment, I made a bowl of cereal and started reading my scriptures while the other 3 Elders staying in the apartment finished getting ready. Shortly after 5:45 we all left the apartment as the faintest traces of dawn began to glow on the horizon. We had no clue what terrible images that rising sun had already seen.

We drove about 10 minutes to Rob Sutton, our Branch Mission Leader’s, house, knocked quietly on the door and were ushered into the living room. We all pulled out our missionary discussions and started reviewing our progress on translating the English discussions into a set of discussions that would be more culturally and linguistically accurate for Deaf investigators.

Sometime around 6:30 (I think) Richie Sutton came into the living room and grabbed his Dad: “You have to come see this… now!”

We sat in a sort of bewildered silence for what seemed like forever. Then Rob came back and, looking somewhat dazed, explained that two jets had crashed into the World Trade Center. I thought he meant two fighter jets. We tried to resume our task but Rob was too preoccupied. We closed the meeting and went back to our apartment to complete our morning studies. None of us had any idea of the magnitude of the news we had just received.

After our morning study, my companion and I got into our car and headed up to the Mission Home. We took the 405 freeway and braced ourselves for the regular ridiculous morning traffic. Instead, Los Angeles was a ghost town. There were very few cars on the freeway and we made it to the mission home in record time. I will never forget the eerie feeling I had traveling up an empty 8 lane freeway and watching the Marquee flashing:

LAX CLOSED.

When we arrived at the mission home, the mood was indeed somber. I spoke to one of the senior couples about what was happening. I don’t remember her name but I remember what she said:

“They’re saying it’s worse than Pearl Harbor”

Over the next few days we visited the homes of members and investigators. We prayed with many of them and offered words of comfort… as best a pair of twenty year olds could anyway. Many people tried to convince me to watch the footage of the planes crashing and the towers falling. I was handed issues of TIME magazine and told to look through the photo montages. I refused because it was against mission rules to watch TV or read magazines. I don’t regret that decision. I am also not naive enough to think that it wouldn’t have been perfectly all right to watch and read. I just didn’t. As a result I am pretty emotionally detached from what may be the greatest tragedy to occur on US soil in my lifetime.

I’m sorry that I cannot offer you a deeper, more visceral and emotional perspective. For that you’ll have to go to your mom and your grandparents and your aunts and uncles. What I can say is this — there was a spirit of love that settled over Los Angeles that surpassed anything I had ever seen in the many months previous. I had walked some pretty mean streets since I unpacked my bags in that first ratty apartment in a rough suburb of south LA. That September morning changed everything. Lakers flags were replaced, in droves by American flags. We attended a Blood Drive that was overflowing with donors. People smiled at one another and were friendly and helpful and for a time, no one was black or white or hispanic, or republican or democrat or rich or poor or Mormon or Catholic. Everyone was somebody. And it meant something to be an American and, for many people, to be a child of God.

Maybe I missed out by not reading the papers or watching the news. Maybe I lost an opportunity to see history unfold in front of me. All I know is, instead of focusing on the images that displayed the fruits of anger, hatred and revenge, I had a chance to focus, unfettered by grief and pain, on the outpouring of love, kindness and caring that was flourishing all around me. In the end, that’s what 9/11 means to me.

I don’t think I regret that.

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2 comments

  1. Wow, what a great way you get to remember that event. Thanks for giving tribute to the uplifting part.


  2. I have to tell you, reading this, reading about you being on your mission really hit home to me tonight. I am preparing to be baptized by the Latter-Day Saints on Friday.

    My whole life I have felt there was more to God and the Gospel then what I had learned growing up. After a brief religious experience I had, I saw the Elders walking around Wal-Mart stocking up on things for their apartment. We talked, set up a meeting, and things went from there.

    Now, as I prepare for baptism, I know that I have found the true way, the way God was preparing to show me, albeit later in life.

    I am glad that I got to read this before my baptism. Thank you.



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