September 11th: a remembrance

September 11, 2007    By: Matt W. @ 7:13 am   Category: Life

6 years ago, I was a missionary in a little town called Siaton. I was the 4th missionary ever assigned there, and was, at the time, very proud of that. It was exciting and new, and we were having great success. It was, in many ways, the most challenging area of my mission, in that I was very sick and lonely most of the time I was there. Also, it was challenging because I was struggling with all the stereotypical things a missionary struggles with, only all at once: My non-member family, my fiance back home, my ethnocentricity, my lack of faith, my selfishness, my fear, my self. And it rained everyday all day, and had been doing that since August 1st or so.

And then, on the other side of the world, an airplane flew into a building, and then another one. Due to a twelve hour time difference and a lack of phone, I didn’t know about it until in the morning. In this small town, a member told us about it as we visited him. The whole day was spent then gathering clues about what happened, as all we got originally was airplanes with terrorists were hitting the world trade center in new york city. Information and misinformation were rampant. At one point we were told that the statue of liberty had been taken down also. At another point, while we were riding a bus from one appointment to another, my filippino companion struck up a conversation with a man on the bus and they spoke of it as you might expect two people to talk about a basketball game, dispassionately and with the same tone of general enthusiasm for just having something interesting to talk about.

Personally, I crumbled. My uncle worked in the pentagon and I wondered if he was alright. We drove to a local phone station and I called my mission president. He e-mailed my Dad and my Dad said my uncle was ok, but that his friends had been on the plane that had gone down in pennsylvania. Even with this reprieve, I was in anguish. All I could really do was continue to serve, and pray, and hurt.

And that’s what I did. I limped along, and kept doing what I knew I was there to do. And my fears abated, and my selfishness became manageable, and my faith increased. I accepted my family for who they were and I married that woman, the one who had given me a book of Mormon in the first place.

Strangly, I do not remember how many days went by until I had the opportunity to get into a town large enough to be in front of a tv and actually hear the news and see what was going on. I know that by the time I got in front of a tv, the much talked about fact that the only thing on tv was replay after replay of the plane hitting the building was over. I wouldn’t actually see the gruesome deed until months later when my future wife would send a time magazine covering the event. I memorized every picture, etched them into my identity as an american, and was finally able to have closure and move on. In a way, I became more American than I ever had been before, but at the same time, I also was able to leave my ethnocentricity behind and see the world with new eyes.

Also in the package was a rain jacket, which to this day, I still consider the best gift I ever received.


  1. I remember waking up the morning after, turning off the alarm, and feeling like something was wrong, but not recalling exactly what. It took me about two steps away from the bed before I remembered the world as I knew it was forever changed.

    I felt guilty, standing in our bathroom, looking at a towel hanging on a rack, that I’d slept in a nice warm bed that night, while there were still thousands of people trapped under all that rubble. No one had realized yet that very few people would be pulled alive from the wreckage.

    Comment by Susan M — September 11, 2007 @ 10:21 am

  2. It is always interesting to hear what other people were doing on fateful days like 9/11. Being on a mission without a TV would have been frustrating for me.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 11, 2007 @ 11:08 am

  3. Geoff was teaching early morning seminary at that time and I was very pregnant with my 3rd child. Geoff had been listening to the radio on the way to seminary so he called me on his cell phone. I was freaked out by getting a call from someone at 5:45 in the morning. I just sat in front of the tv and cried all day.

    Now today I’ve been watching a few documentaries on that day. What has really struck me is how horrible this day still is for everyone but especially for those who have lost loved ones.

    Comment by Kristen J — September 11, 2007 @ 4:38 pm

  4. I couldn’t sleep the night before. I kept telling my wife that I was very troubled, something was wrong, but it wasn’t physical but somehow my spirit was in pain. I told my wife I felt an evil that made it hard for me to breath. I stayed awake all night the night before wondering what the dread was that I felt. I actually began to cry. I’ll never forget the loving hug my wife gave me and told me that everything would be alright. She went out of the bedroom to let me try to get to sleep (have you ever tried to sleep? It’s futile.) Just as I fell asleep, my wife came into the bedroom and told me the towers had been hit. Something clicked for me. I felt a dread and somehow sensed that life as we knew it had changed forever.

    Comment by Blake — September 11, 2007 @ 9:25 pm