The Miracles That Kept This Latter-day Saint Missionary Alive After the Brussels Bombings

by | Mar. 22, 2018

Makes You Think

Surviving the Boston Marathon Bombings

The skyscrapers were swaying.

Wells looked up from crowds of onlookers making their way to the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. Having just missed Wells's mother as she ran past their cheering section on the sidelines, Wells and his father were making their way to the finish line to find her. 

But for some reason Wells didn't understand at the time, his dad felt like they should not walk directly to the finish line. 

"He just said, ‘I feel like we should cross here,'" Wells remembers. "I don’t know the reason why he felt like we should go around. Whether he thought it was packed, whether it was just kind of his intuition. He was the one who decided we should cross the street, and had he not, we would’ve been right next to [the bomb] when it went off."

That's when they heard it, the first explosion. 

Confused, Wells looked around. He says it almost sounded like the bleachers on the sideline had collapsed, but he wasn't sure. 

"I turn to my dad, and he didn't know what had happened either," Wells remembers. "There was a guy in front of us that lived in Boston and he said he had never heard that sound in his entire life and right when he said that, the second bomb went off. And that’s kind of when we knew it was something different."

People began to panic, running and shoving as they tried to escape danger even when they didn't know which direction the danger was coming from. 

Wells's father shouted for his son to go to the hotel as they made their way through the chaotic streets. 

After some resistance, Wells complied, somehow making it back to the hotel and up to the room he and his parents were staying in. 

He looked out the large glass windows to the streets below, shocked at what he saw.

From his vantage point, he could clearly see the sites of the two bombs with police vehicles, ambulances, and National Guardsmen pulling up to the bombing sites littered with broken glass and materials from the surrounding buildings. 

A portion of his innocence was shattered as he looked out over the scene of destruction and human suffering. But in some ways, it would also prepare him for his future.

Eventually, Wells turned from the view and turned on the TV to find out more. He was instantly hit with captions like "Boston Marathon Bombing with multiple casualties" and "Terror strikes Boston."

And his parents were still out there, somewhere among all of this. 

Thankfully, after a few tense moments, Wells's phone vibrated with a text message. It was his dad. He had found his mom, they were both safe, and they were making their way back to the hotel. 

He didn't know, he couldn't know, that this wasn't his last brush with a terrorist attack. Someday, he would be one of the survivors of another bombing, waiting for an ambulance. 

"Normal Boy"

His left leg trailing blood, his face and left hand blistered, charred, and scabbed with burns, and his shirt now stained with blood and human tissue that wasn't all his, Wells stepped out onto the cement sidewalk outside the Brussels airport. 

Gripping a steel handrail, Wells looked down. His black dress pants were in tatters from the knee down, exposing something he did not want to see. Part of his left heel was gone. The skin on the right side was gone too, exposing muscle and fascia. Blood was flowing freely from his heel, forming a crimson puddle on the cement.

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Wells receiving treatment at a hospital after the bombings

As he stood gingerly on his right leg, clenching the rail, he wondered if he could possibly make it any further. He didn't have much time to think about it before a man stepped toward Wells, urging him to sit down. Wells obliged, lowering himself carefully, painfully, to sit in a pool of his own blood. The man soon left, looking for supplies to help Wells. 

Then the thought came—Elder Empey was still inside the airport. 

Wells began to look through the crowd of people streaming around him, running out of the smoke-filled airport. He noticed Sister Clain, though she didn't see him. She was badly hurt but she was alive, making her way out of the airport and speaking with a badly burned woman. 

All around him, people were screaming, crying, running, or dazed. 

Still no sign of Empey. 

Amid this horrible scene, he noticed someone else, a Muslim woman with a peach shirt and high heels was making her way against the flood of people. 

She approached Wells, her eyes filling with tears as she assessed his injuries. But she remained calm, asking him what he needed, holding his hand, offering him peace even when the world around him was in chaos. 

"Essentially, it was almost as if she was sent from God to keep me calm during all that," Wells reflects. "I just wish I could find her and tell her thank you."

A few minutes later, someone else began making his way toward Wells. It was Elder Empey.

The two inspected each others' injuries: Wells with his bloody heel, charred hand, and burned face and Empey with his burned hands, shrapnel-peppered body, and tatters of skin hanging off his face.

Moments later, the man who originally helped Wells after he exited the airport returned carrying a briefcase. Using the briefcase to elevate Wells's foot, the man turned to Empey and asked him to take his belt off to help form a makeshift tourniquet for Wells's leg—something Wells protested. He knew he was facing a life-altering decision: staunch the blood flow with a tourniquet and risk losing his leg or risk dying from blood loss. 

"When that happened, I remembered back to the promises that God had made me previously in my life," Wells says. "And there were very definite promises that pertained to my life after my mission. So that's why, when I was lying there, I wasn't scared. I wasn't scared of bleeding [to death]. I did my best to respond to my injuries but I kept praying and putting my faith in God that it would work out."

With those promises in mind, Wells made the decision—no tourniquet. 

However, Empey and Wells agreed they needed priesthood blessings. Placing his burned hands over Wells's head, Empey offered a simple blessing. But one phrase stood out to Wells.

"All I remember [is] that he said he promised I would have the life of a 'normal boy,'" Wells says. "As soon as he finished the blessing, the words of Jeffrey R. Holland came to my mind that God keeps all of His promises."

After the blessing, Empey left to find Norby. When he returned, he reported that Elder Norby was alive and people were helping him, but he, too, was severely injured. 

After that, Empey and Wells waited on the sidewalk. An EMT passed Wells. He stopped long enough to press a wad of gauze into his hand, then hurried on to attend to others whose injuries were more severe. Wells, with his foot elevated on the suitcase, had Empey press the wad into the bloody hole where part of his heel had been. 

Finally, emergency personnel loaded Wells into an ambulance filled with other victims screaming in pain. But Wells was in an ambulance. He was safe. Tears wetted Wells's eyes. 

But the horrors of the day were not over.

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After surviving three separate terrorist attacks, Mason Wells was left with third-degree burns, emotional scars, and a shaken belief in God. How could a merciful Father let evil prevail? Why had Mason been saved? What did God want from him? This miraculous true story will change how you see your own struggles and teach you the true power of forgiveness, perseverance, and faith.

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