NEW YORK CITY — Days following the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, missionaries of the New York New York North Mission are continuing to share their message of peace and hope.
They are visiting Church members and investigators and offering a collective message of concern and encouragement. They are praying with and for the victims and their families. They are telling others about the Plan of Salvation. They are finding hearts softened — and hardened — by the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
And they all feel, said mission President Noel G. Stoker, that they were sent by the Lord to New York City to help in this time of crisis. "The Lord knew we needed to be here at this time," he said.
Elder Joseph R. Seymour of Huntington Beach, Calif., and Elder Seth Fillmore of Murray, Utah, were riding the subway under the World Trade Center just after an airplane struck the first of the two buildings. On their way to Ellis Island to give service, the missionaries found themselves in the middle of the dust cloud after the first of the two buildings collapsed. They covered their faces with handkerchiefs and headed toward the water. Soon they gave their handkerchiefs to mothers pushing children in strollers. Then they watched as vendors passed out drinks and as total strangers helped each other and shared cellular phones.
They met a Church member who had been separated from her family and waited as two missionaries walked for half an hour to meet them in New Jersey where they were evacuated by ferry.
Now, said Elder Seymour, they hope that they can give service and share the very message that sustained them through the crisis.
In the days after the crisis, Elder Seymour and other missionaries worked with the local ward to contact every Church member in the area. Other missionaries were able to work with the Red Cross, helping the organization coordinate volunteers. And President Stoker welcomed, on Monday Sept. 17, the 21 new missionaries who, en route to the New York mission, had been diverted to Denver when the FAA ordered that all planes be grounded Sept. 11.
President Stoker said he has seen and heard numerous stories of faith, experienced by both the missionaries and especially by members working in the World Trade Center.
However, he added, a story circulating on the Internet detailing a missionary conference planned to be held in the World Trade Center the morning of the attack is not true. According to the fabricated story, all the missionaries miraculously failed to make the conference due to a variety of circumstances. President Stoker emphasized that no conference was scheduled for Sept. 11 and that conferences would not have been held in the World Trade Center.
"The story is such a disservice," he said. "It is a malicious kind of thing to destroy credible stories of faith."