Bishop Thomas


On September 11, 2000, my phone rang early in the morning. It was Joan Keaney, president of our local Relief Society. “Are you watching the television?” She sounded truly alarmed, “Have you seen what’s happening in New York at the World Trade Center? One of the towers was hit by a plane!” Before I could respond, Joan cried out that another plane had just crashed into the second tower.  

My head was spinning. Everything she said sounded impossible to me. We were not hooked up for television at our house in the woods, but we did have an ISDN line for Internet. I pulled up several news sites and sure enough, there were videos of smoke billowing from both towers. I need not rehearse the details. Those images are seared into our national consciousness.  

Around Oakhurst, people were gathering at the community park to talk about what happened. As a recently ordained bishop, I thought I should probably head over to the park and help out. People looked dazed, in a state of disbelief, and many were shell shocked. No one knew what it meant yet, nor what might happen next. We gathered into small groups to talk together, pray together, ask questions, and share the latest news updates…

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Jackson and I were sitting together when the unthinkable news arrived. His beloved wife had passed away during childbirth. Their baby daughter had survived and was undergoing further treatment in critical care. But Rachel’s body had succumbed to pre-eclampsia or septicemia, I can’t recall which one took her life.  

What I do recall with perfect clarity is that Jackson immediately collapsed on my shoulder and began to sob uncontrollably, his broad shoulders heaving up and down. I wrapped my arms around him as he cried without restraint, hot tears raining down on my shoulder.    

When Rachel’s parents arrived, we were all escorted into a small room to view the body. The family gathered around her empty shell and stood in catatonic shock, grief-stricken, stunned. Her father suddenly blurted out an angry, agonizing cry of shattered disbelief, sending a shudder through my heart…

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