Mormons and 9/11: Survivors, Rescuers, and Victims' Families Share Their Stories

An Outpouring of Love

In the days that followed the horrific events of September 11, David Buckner, who was serving as bishop of the Manhattan 8th Ward and later served as stake president of the New York New York Stake, describes the outpouring of love as “palpable.”

“I saw the change in people. Strangers looked each other in the eye. They asked each other if they were okay.” He continues, “I remember riding the bus to work. There was an elderly woman who sat down next to me and asked, ‘How is your family?’ Now, in New York, no one talks on buses. I told her we were fine. After telling me her family was also safe, she got emotional and said, ‘Things will never be the same.’ I responded, ‘I hope not.’”

Strangers from across the globe also reached out, anxious to help, anxious to send their love. Susan Robinson, then–stake Relief Society president, recalls the flood of letters and donations from people around the world, including many LDS wards and branches. “Our stake was on the receiving end of a lot of kindness,” she says. “You could tell people wanted to do something.”

Robinson says the stake was overwhelmed with donations of quilts, teddy bears, bottled water, and other gestures of good will. She worked with the local police departments and fire departments to distribute things where they would do the most good.

“The terrorist attacks were horrible, terrible acts, but in the aftermath I saw the best of people,” Robinson says. “We weren’t caring about all the silly things that seem to divide us. Those were swept away in an instant.”

Never the Same

“For me, priorities changed almost overnight,” Victor Guzman says. “I took the job at the World Trade Center for more money, but I was commuting nearly four hours a day. Now my family is my priority. Money is tight, and I have a wife and five children at home, but the sacrifices have been worth it.”

(Watch Victor Guzman share how 9/11 changed his life in the video below)

Guzman also goes out of his way to pay compliments to people rather than complain. “People deserve to feel better about their day,” he says. “When you make someone feel good, then you feel good.”

“I think about 9/11 often,” says Parry. “It’s had a huge impact on my life. It’s inspired me to be a different person, to view life in a deeper, more profound way.”

One way Parry has chosen to reach out to others is through a program he created called Promethean Spark. His mission is to teach life skills to impoverished youth worldwide through training in the performing arts. (Visit prometheanspark.org for more information.)

“I hope that people recognize that life is sacred, that we live in a very delicate world in a very tumultuous time that has been prophesied of—and that’s okay,” says David Buckner. “We don’t need to be afraid. Be committed. Be confident. Be ready.”


Tribute in Light Memorial, one of the first memorials for the attacks, set up for the anniversary in 2004

Honoring Lost Loved Ones

LDS families who lost loved ones on 9/11 focus on precious memories and rely on the gospel to stay strong.

“I don’t think our feelings are very different than the feelings of other people who have lost a loved one,” says Carson Howell, Brady Howell’s younger brother. “Over the years, those times of mourning are slowly replaced by remembering the good times. There has definitely been a peace that has come as we have relied on the Lord and our faith.”

Brady’s sister, Camille Mortensen, adds, “Brady loved everyone so much. He was able to convey that so genuinely to people. I talk to my kids all the time and tell them, ‘Try to be like Brady. Be everybody’s friend.’”

Margaret Wahlstrom, who lost her mother-in-law and sister-in-law on Flight 11, says, “Since those events, we have felt obligated to share the gospel with others so they can have that peace in their lives. That’s our way of honoring their memories.”

In Memoriam

As we mark the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, we honor these Church members—and all victims—who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

Mary Alice Wahlstrom, age 78


Died aboard American Airlines Flight 11 with her daughter, Carolyn Bueg, when the plane crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Wahlstrom was a volunteer usher at Temple Square and lived in Kaysville, Utah.

Carolyn Bueg, age 48

Died aboard American Airlines Flight 11 while traveling with her mother, Mary Alice Wahlstrom.  She lived in Santa Monica, California, and was an acclaimed filmmaker and video producer. 

Ivhan Luis Caprio Bautista, age 24 

(no photo available)

Died inside the North Tower of the World Trade Center. He was working at Windows on the World, a complex of restaurants on the 106th and 107th floors. He had moved to New York City from Peru two years earlier and had been accepted to the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He was a recently baptized member of the Richmond Hill New York District. 

Brady Howell, age 26

One of the 188 victims who died when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, where he was working as an intern.  He and his wife, Liz, were in their fourth year of marriage. He was a returned missionary and had earned a master’s degree in public administration. He lived in Arlington, Virginia.

Rhonda Sue Ridge Rasmussen, age 44

Died when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, where she was working as a civilian employee for the U.S. Army. Her husband, Floyd Rasmussen, worked on the floor above her. He survived the attack. They lived in Woodbridge, Virginia, and were planning to move to California.

This article originally ran in the September/October 2011 issue of LDS Living magazine.
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