My Life in Zion

The life and views of a Latter-day Saint in the 21st Century…

What I’m Expecting from General Conference

God the Father by Cima da  Conegliano.

God the Father by Cima da Conegliano, c 1515.

When people ask me what my favorite holiday is I always say Christmas, because y’know, it’s Christmas and it’s awesome, but then I always tell them it is followed by April General Conference and October General Conference. No lie. Members of the Church and nonmember alike get the same answer. This often leads to coworkers and friends asking if we actually celebrate these conferences in a liturgical calendar, which of course we don’t, “But,” I say, “we get to hear from living prophets of God, and that’s pretty awesome to me.”

Needless to say I’m “the religious guy” at work because of such answers, with many of my coworkers calling me a minister.

This evokes a lot of laughter from me.

But as the sun creeped over the horizon this morning and woke me up in our small apartment here in Mountain Brook, Alabama, I knew today would be a historic and memorable day. And it really does feel like Christmas morning. Not because there is a huge set of ornaments set up here in our home (unless you count the church paintings and the temple statues), but because it really is festive in the air for me! Today I will get to hear the word of the Lord from His mouthpieces. Imperfect men delivering a perfect message. There will be no physical gifts today, but instead there will be eternal gifts that will bless me and my family now and throughout the eternities. How could I not be excited for that?

I used to look forward to General Conference excited to hear the “next big thing”, the latest “revelation”, and monumental announcements. When President Hinckley announced the Perpetual Education Fund I remember sitting in my small chapel with my brethren in Jasper, Alabama and thinking, “Yep folks. That’s revelation right there. Awesome sauce.” When President Hinckley announced in the first Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting (not conference, but close enough) that missionaries would now be “teaching by the Spirit” I remember sitting back in that pew in the Bessemer Alabama Stake Center and thinking, “Yep folks. That’s revelation right there. Cool beans.” And every time there are temples announced, from Rome, Italy to Cedar City, Utah I’ve sat back and thought to myself, “Yep folks. That’s some mighty fine revelation there. Jesus rocks.” However, in recent years as I’ve matured and grown spiritually I’ve come to realize that the “big” announcements at General Conference aren’t where most of the revelations from the Lord come. The true revelation comes in pondering and applying the simplest of words spoken over that pulpit in each talk.

When Julie B. Beck gave her “Mothers that Know” talk, I knew exactly the kind of wife I wanted. And I have been so blessed to find her.

When Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin gave his talk “Come What May and Love It” I knew he was speaking directly to me.

When President Uchtdorf gave the talk “Your Potential, Your Privilege” I knew it was just for me.

When Elder Holland has given pretty much any talk I’ve known it was given directly to me. And so it has been with every talk each and every conference, from Elder Whiting’s “Temple Standard” to Elder Soares’ “Be Meek and Lowly of Heart”, they have all been just for me. As I’ve listened to them, watched them again, played them on my Gospel Library App while driving, and pondered them in the hours of the night I’ve come to find that every single General Conference talk has been applicable to me and amplified my spiritual life.

Of course I have my favorite speakers. But even the most random of Seventy who speaks on Sunday afternoon has prepared the words the Lord has inspired him to give.

Since I was a teenager I have always imagined the Lord attending General Conference casually, unseen of course, but close by as the Brethren and Sisters speak. It is His conference after all (as Elder Hales reminded us so beautifully just six months ago). He is there, and He will be with us today.

This General Conference I am expecting a lot. I’ve put in a tall order for the guidance I’ll be needing for the next six months. This will be my first General Conference as a husband to my dear and sweet wife. It is my first General Conference as an expecting father. And recently I was called to a calling which will require far more time, commitment, and resources from me than I currently feel I have. This General Conference I will be listening with a new ear and a new heart, and looking for things not just for myself, but for my family and for those I am called to minister to. In short, I’m expecting a lot this weekend. And I know I will not be let down.

I imagine God sits and looks down on us rather lovingly during these weekends. A few million of His children gathering to try and listen to His voice. There, from celestial glory, I imagine His perspective is eternal and the love He wishes to convey is unending. Perhaps His arms are even outstretched to show His affection for us. If only we could hear Him more closely perhaps we could always see Him like this, as our Father trying to help us get back home.

This weekend we will hear His voice and the voice of His Son.

It’s better than Christmastime here in the Way Household!

 

If you would like to join in and enjoy General Conference live this weekend or re-watch it at a future date you can do so by clicking here.

Change Your Course

light house at night

On Mondays I go into work late. When my wife takes her lunch from work she drives the five minutes back to our home and we enjoy our Monday lunches together.

Today when Anna Melissa came home for lunch our conversation turned to our goals as a family, where we want to be personally in a few months as we prepare to be parents, where we want to live, our careers, and other imposing subjects. After a brief conversation and exchanging of thoughts and ideas she asked almost rhetorically, “What have you done today to get us towards those goals?” She then went on and shared some of her thoughts and aspirations for us as a couple.

The question got me thinking, even though it was asked in a passing and indirect manner, “What have I done today?” And I was happy to be able to affirm to myself that I was on the right course.

Yesterday I taught our priesthood quorum in our new branch. I taught from the talk given by Elder Ulisses Soares in our last General Conference, Be Meek and Lowly of Heart, and encouraged the brethren to change whatever might be in their lives that might be keeping them from the meekness that Elder Soares so beautifully describes. We discussed tempers, pride, family relationships, marriage, children, and how easy it is to get off course. In closing I told a story about once when my pride had gotten the better of me in my life. I told them how my arrogance led to a loss of the Holy Spirit, and how eventually coming to realize I was wrong and then asking forgiveness had brought a cleansing and peaceful spirit into my life. “Change your course brethren if your lack of meekness is causing a lack of the Spirit in your life,” was the gist of what I said.

Afterwards multiple brethren came up and thanked me for the lesson. It wasn’t me though. I hadn’t even wanted to teach from that specific talk. But a loving God knew what needed to be said to that group of people at that time and He said it through the weakest vessel He had.

You may remember the story about the ship captain who had a problem with his pride. One night at sea, this captain saw what looked like the light of another ship heading toward him. He had his signalman blink to the other ship: “Change your course 10 degrees south.” The reply came back, “Change your course 10 degrees north.” The ship’s captain answered: “I am a captain. Change your course south.” To which the reply came, “Well, I am a seaman first class. Change your course north.” This so infuriated the captain, he signaled back, “I say change your course south. I am on a battleship!” To which the reply came back, “And I say change your course north. I am in a lighthouse.”

Sometimes in our lives we just need to stop whatever we are doing and change. We need to change course. We need to let go of our pride, our intellect, and our own wills and admit that there is a better way. The greatest Way of course which is the Savior’s Way and example. Treating our family, friends, coworkers, and everyday associates with love, respect, and kind words is always the best path to follow. Jesus Christ is the ultimate lighthouse. The trick is making sure to change our courses according to His prescribed plan.

 

 

 

Why Dogs Die Young

I’ve seen this shared numerous times online this week. It is supposedly a story from the perspective a veterinarian and his experience with a young boy who saw his dog put down. It is touching, and makes me wonder what the world would be like if we would just all listen to the wisdom of children…

DogDeathfromAKidPerspective

Following God’s Plan

My wife and I on our wedding day at The Birmingham Alabama Temple.

My wife and I on our wedding day at The Birmingham Alabama Temple.

Last night my wife and I were about to sit down and enjoy a couple of episodes of The Big Bang Theory. I’ve always loved the show, and since getting married, she’s taken a great liking to it too. We’re only on day 23 of our marriage, but somehow we’ve rushed through the first three seasons of DVD’s and are now on season four. I’m not sure how many episodes that boils down to us watching per day of our marriage, but I’m going to assume it’s higher than we would probably like to admit. The antics of Sheldon Cooper just cannot be matched. In any case, we were sitting down on the couch last night and I felt that I needed to take a moment to point something out.

“Baby, I have to tell you something,” I said looking Anna Melissa straight in the eyes. I realized I had used a bit more of a forceful tone that I had intended to use and she looked at me like I had just said something ominous.

“Okay, go ahead,” she said somewhat reluctantly. She sat back into the corner of the couch with her legs crossed in front of her, as if she was bracing for some big storm of words. We’ve had nothing but a perfectly blissful marriage so far. Perhaps she thought this would be the moment when perfection finally ceased? She furrowed her eyebrows and looked me straight on.

I apologized for sounding so drastic, and then said something that has in a real sense overwhelmed me for the past few days.

“Y’know,” I started off casually, “if you had asked me a year ago where I would be today I would have never have dreamed it would have been here with you. I had completely different life dreams, and a vision, and a plan. This is in no way part of that,” I said as I motioned around our small apartment living room. “But,” I continued, “I cannot imagine my life being any happier than I am right now. I cannot imagine being happier in any way at all, and I love you, and I’m thankful that I married you.”

That was it.

She gave me that “Awwwe Shucks” face of her’s which is adorable, and she leaned forward for a kiss. We shared a few more brief words of how happy we are together, and then the night continued on with our recorded sitcom television. Just a few seconds worth of conversation in a lifetime full of events, but what I said was true, and as I sit here today it is still echoing in my mind.

A year ago I had big plans. They involved moving back to Utah, an eventual marriage (to some unknown beauty), being a published author by the end of the year, and a goal to learn to play the guitar. Then the first Sunday in February I met Anna Melissa. There are varying accounts to how that first interaction proceeded (I was after all asking her friend out on a date when we met), but suffice it to say I married the right gal. She is the most perfect woman in the world for me and, and as I told her last night, I could not be any happier. I would not change a single thing about the previous year. But it’s funny how life just happens amidst all of our well laid plans.

A few months ago I was listening to This American Life on NPR. The story was about the Plan B’s of life. Not people’s Plan A. But Plan B. The thing that they ended up doing after their Plan A to achieve all of their hopes and dreams and when things just didn’t work out. The engaging story included the tale of Ceurvo Man, a hired personality on a small island owned by Jose Cuervo where the liquor company does elite weekend getaways. There was also a story about a man named Barry Keenan who had gotten rich at a very young age and then lost it all, only to end up trying to kidnap Frank Sinatra Jr.

“Jeez!” I thought to myself driving down the interstate to a new job I had recently started, “I’m glad my life didn’t end up like that.” Yes, I once wanted to rich and famous, but I haven’t become a felon or tried kidnapping any D-List celebrities along the way.

It turns out Mr. Keenan’s efforts to kidnap young Frank Jr. never really worked out. However, it really got me to thinking, what was my life’s Plan A? What were my hopes and dreams? Why didn’t I achieve them? And as I got to thinking I realized that I never really planned well enough for my Plan A, or B, and somehow despite my best efforts at planning I was probably somewhere between Plan Q and Plan 22.7 subsection C.

In the Mormon culture we’re always referring to The Plan of Happiness, or God’s Plan, or The Plan of Salvation. The great and epic plan for all of our lives, planned, prepared, and perpetuated since before the beginning of time. It’s the way we’re supposed to get back to God’s presence. It applies to everyone in the world and we’re bound by covenant to try and share it with the world. There is, after all, no better way to share the gospel than to invite a friend over for some Kool Aid, smile really big, and invite them to learn about The Plan of Happiness. – No. Nothing weird about that at all. – Sometimes I think we get lost in our own life plans though, planning for education, or marriage, or kids, and sometimes lose sight of God’s plan for our lives.

On September 28th of this past year in the annual Relief Society General Meeting Sister Linda K. Burton taught that covenant keeping strengthens, empowers, and protects us. She said simply,

“Covenant keeping is essential for true happiness.”

She continued by saying that covenant keeping also demonstrates our love for the Father and the Son, and that ordinances are spiritual milestones, noting that they are the crucial test of life is to see if we will make and keep covenants.

Is my life where I planned it to be a year ago, or five years ago, or even a decade ago? No. But is yours? Have all of your plans came to fruition?

Yet I’m happy. Indeed, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. And even if I am on Plan 22.7 subsection C I know that my happiness comes from obedience to the Lord, His gospel, and my covenants. I married the right person in the right place at the right time, and we could not be happier.

My life is evidence that sometimes Plan A, or Plan B just don’t work out. My life is evidence that screw ups have a chance, and that the greatest happiness in life comes from just doing the most plain and simple things we’re asked to do.

Where will me and my family be in five years? It’s hard to say. But I have no doubt that as we follow God’s plan in our lives we’ll find the greatest joy there is to be found in this life.

In the meantime, I’m sure we’ll be catching up on The Big Bang Theory.

Missing General Conference

President Thomas S. Monson sits in the audience at the Tabernacle on Temple Square on October 4, 1963, moments before he was sustained as a General Authority and invited to the stand.

President Thomas S. Monson sits in the audience at the Tabernacle on Temple Square on 4 October 1963, moments before he was sustained as a General Authority and invited to the stand.

Fifty years ago today President Thomas S. Monson was called as the newest member of the Quorum of the Twelve. What a historic fifty years of church growth it has been!

As I’ve been looking at the above picture of young Elder Monson this morning my heart has been filled with mixture of great joy and also deep sadness over this upcoming weekend’s Semiannual General Conference.

This will be the first General Conference I will have not watched live since April of 2001 when I was in high school. Each spring and autumn since my teenage years has been like a holiday to as I’ve prepared mentally, spiritually, and even temporally for the upcoming General Conference and the opportunity to listen to and sustain prophets, seers, and revelators. When people ask me what my favorite holiday is, I usually answer “General Conference” and then proceed to tell them about what an awesome event that it is.

Starting a year and a half ago I started live- tweeting during General Conference using the #LDSconf hashtag on Twitter. To some this might have seemed like a distraction. But the opportunities it has given me to listen with new ears to the talks, and to instantly feel connected to my Latter-day Saint brothers and sisters throughout the world has helped me to gain greater insight into the gospel and even create new and meaningful friendships with people throughout the world.

But this year is different.

I have recently started a brand new job, and am preparing to be married in just two short months. In the days leading up to Conference I have prayed, and begged the Lord for ways to help me get my shift covered. I have offered my coworkers cold hard cash of $100 to take my shift (a double shift actually and 12 hour day) to pick it up for me, but to no avail. Working in a 100% commission job on a college football Saturday in Alabama isn’t exactly profitable. So I understand the lack of interest in assisting me.

Every year since 2001 I’ve taken a three or four day weekend to prepare for, enjoy, and then reflect on General Conference. But this year it just won’t be so. This year, instead of hearing about the new temples to be built (my guesses are on a new temple in Utah and one in Brazil, plus probably a couple of more) I’ll be selling cell phones in Alabaster, Alabama. This Conference instead of enjoying a lunch at the chapel with full-time missionaries during the World Report I’ll be sharing phone operating system suggestions with strangers on a showroom floor. No sustainings. No airplane stories from President Uchtdorf and no ear wiggling from President Monson. Just work.

If it sounds like I’m being melodramatic it’s because I probably am.

Yeah, yeah. I get it. General Conference can be DVR’d. “Most people don’t watch it live anyways,” you might be saying to yourself. “You can just read the Ensign,” might be a logical thing to say.

But to me it’s like I’m having to work on my Christmas Day. I’m missing Christmas Eve, and the opening of my presents. I’m missing my family and my friends.

General Conference just won’t be the same.

Last night as I knelt down to pray and I felt downright depressed. If Eeyore (Winnie the Pooh’s forlorn friend) had materialized into a real life human being he was the guy kneeling beside my bed. I began my prayer in such a sad sounding humdrum manner as to make Eeyore sound cheerful even.

“I’m going to missing Conference Heavenly Father,” I stated flatly. “Maybe it won’t be this way come April,” I lamented with the inflection of a jilted 13 year old girl.

God is rather patient with me I’ve come to realize.

I complained about my work shift. My new job. Feeling depressed. And everything else I could muster a murmur about.

And as I was about to say in the most reverent way possible, “Thanks for not helping me get that shift covered,” I paused as the Spirit spoke directly to me in my mind:

“You’re going to watch it Stan. I’m providing for you and your marriage.”

And instantly all of the other prayers I’ve offered recently about helping me in my job, helping me to prepare for marriage, and so much more came flooding into my mind.

Kneeling before my bed I stopped in silence, realizing that yes, I would watch the Conference Sessions. Probably even rewatch them each two times in the coming week. God was answering my other prayers and I was just too juvenile to realize it.

I felt guilty for complaining and being so forlorn, and I instantly began begging again to God, only this time for forgiveness of my sins.

This weekend I’ll miss watching live as our church leaders speak. I’ll miss the Tweets from my friends in Africa, India, England, and Utah. I’ll miss having lunch with the full-time missionaries (and this time my fiance), and walking around the park nearby my local chapel and observing the first traces of fall in the leaves.

I’ll miss those things.

But I know that I’ll get to enjoy, listen to, relisten to, and apply the teachings of modern day prophets and apostles in the very near future, even if I hear them via DVR and the internet.

Fifty years ago today Thomas S. Monson was called as an apostle. As I’ve looked at the picture above this morning I’ve thought of what must have been racing through his mind at that very moment right before he was called forth from the congregation. Did he have any idea where life would lead him? Did he have the beginning of a glimpse into what his life’s ministry would be?

Time flies when you’re having fun. And perhaps the funnest parts of life are serving the Lord.

I’ll miss hearing the words of President Monson in the morning. But I am thankful that God has answered my prayers. Perhaps I won’t make a single red cent tomorrow in Alabaster, Alabama selling cell phones. But who knows why God arranged for me to work there tomorrow? Perhaps I’m supposed to just be there to brighten someone’s day?

In any case, I have no problem missing General Conference as long as I know it’s what has been prepared for me by the Lord. Fifty years from now I’ll be able to look back on this weekend and tell my grandchildren how extremely heartbroken I was to miss listening to men and women of God, and I hope and pray it will instill in them a desire to always listen to a prophet’s voice. Or, perhaps I’ll get to tell them about the time I met a family that got baptized because I ended up working on a General Conference weekend…

One can always hope.

In any case I hope that you have a happy Conference Weekend my friends! I look forward to hearing how all of you enjoyed it.

- Stan

If you’re not Mormon and somehow stumbled upon this post about how I’m a big ol’ complainer and LDS General Conference, I’m glad you did! I hope you’ll take the time to learn more about my faith. To learn more please just click here. You’ll be glad you did.

Holding to the Rod

hold to the rod the iron rod

It’s 12:30 in the morning and my fiance and I are just finishing scripture study over the phone. 77 days until we’re married and the time is flying by. Most nights we Google Video Chat, but tonight the wifi wasn’t very good. So it was all over the phone.

I just love scripture study with Anna Melissa.

It’s been a tough week.

Actually, it’s been a tough couple of weeks for us, both individually and collectively as a couple.

It’s funny how very strongly the adversary fights against the things that are right. We could literally write a novel or two at this point about the trials we have faced together. Earlier this week I emailed Anna Melissa after we had studied our scriptures and I told her I didn’t know what the next day would hold, but I was sure that it would be exciting.

My self fulfilled prophecy came to pass when the next night we both cried ourselves to sleep over another bump in the road on our path to a temple marriage.

Why is life so hard? Why are there struggles? Why do good people have bad days, weeks, and months? Why is life so blissfully easy for some and so damning and dreadful for others?

I don’t know.

I always quote from a wise sister missionary from my mission who said meekly in a district meeting,

“The difference between a crisis and an adventure is our attitude.”

I still remember her pausing and pursing her lips as she spoke to us, then said simply,

“I choose to live every day as an adventurer.”

And so it is with me. I’ve made that my personal mantra and likewise face each day with a feeling of adventure.

It’s not always easy to do the right thing. There are always challenges. And for my wonderful fiance and I we have faced one challenge after another. Perhaps some day I will summarize them in the longest, most complicated, epically crazy blog post ever, but for now let if suffice to say that God does indeed work miracles.

We worship a living, very real, and very personal God. And each day as Anna Melissa and I get closer to our marriage my testimony is built stronger of just how very much He wants to be a part of our lives and our future family’s lives.

Holding to the rod, the amazing word of God, is what brings peace at the end of each day. The stirring hymn says it best when it says that the scriptures

“‘Twill safely guide you through.”

- “Hold to the Rod”; Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints #247

Through every trial, joy, pain, crisis, achievement, mundane day or murky night, the scriptures are there to guide and give us living waters to drink from.

If it weren’t for them, I have no idea where I would be.

But I know one thing for sure, and that is that I would not be just 77 days away from marrying my best friend.

The gospel rocks.

 

- Stan

September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2001 – A Personal Reflection

The live shot from The Today Show on NBC the morning of September 11, 2001.

The live shot from The Today Show on NBC the morning of September 11, 2001.

 

I was just a couple of weeks into my senior year at Walker High School in Jasper, Alabama on that Tuesday morning. When I woke up there was nothing special or unique about it. It was beautiful. The sun was shining, the skies were clear, and I got into my silver ’96 Ford Probe and drove to school. My first class of the day was in our high school’s theater, and as I entered that morning all of my classmates and closest friends were gathered around telling stories and getting ready for whatever our beloved theater teacher, Ms. Brown, might instruct us to do for the day once the bell rang. At 7:45 the bell instructing everyone to go to class rang, and I seated myself on the edge of the stage and started telling my friends some nonsensical story I can’t even remember now.

A close friend and classmate, Megan Pilling, had not been feeling well that morning and had went to the nurse’s office before the 8:55 bell to start classes had even rang. Once the bell had rang I continued with my story since we really hadn’t started yet, and I remember Megan coming back in through the theater doors with a look on her face that said she’d just seen something intriguing when she stated matter of factly, “Y’all a plane just hit the World Trace Center.” She’d seen it on the television in the nurse’s office. Being a natural teenager I remember saying something childish like, “No way. You’re kidding.” But she reasserted what she’d just seen and we all took interest.

Turning almost collectively as a class to Ms. Brown, our teacher, we asked if we could walk across the hallway to her room and turn on the television. Receiving consent we walked casually into Room 23 of Walker High School that morning as innocent American teenagers, not knowing that when we walked out a short time later the entire world would be different forever.

With the television turned onto the local NBC affiliate we all watched The Today Show live and stood around. Chattering, we saw as the plume of smoke billowed out of the north tower of The World Trace Center. Matt Lauer and Katie Couric spoke with an NBC producer and eye witness to the first plane’s crash. Then, suddenly and shockingly, at 8:03 our time, as the news anchors reflected on the terrorist attacks of 1993, the second plane hit.

We watched it.

We heard the gasps over the television, and we gasped ourselves.

…..

Every moment of that day was then eternally etched into my mind.

As I drove home that afternoon I was in shock. What had started as a beautiful day was still beautiful in appearance, but spooky in feeling. On my way home there were lines at all the gas stations and I remember being glad I had a full tank.

When I got home CNN was already on and I couldn’t keep myself from watching. My parents left to go fill up their gas tanks and I remember watching in our living room as Dennis Hastert, the Speaker of The House of Representatives, gave a few brief remarks with a large group of representatives and senators on the east steps of the Capitol Building. And I remember as he finished his remarks that group of elected officials, momentarily not caught up by party affiliation, burst into song together and sing robustly “God Bless America”.

And then I cried.

…..

Every American will always remember where they were that day because of the way it touched us, changed us, and even hurt us.

On the evening of September 12th I sat alone in my bedroom pondering everything I’d watched over the past thirty-six hour period and I wrote a few brief words. I then emailed what I’d written to a few close friends and went to bed.

I didn’t think of what I’d written again until a week later when my cousin said it had been read by their teacher in their classroom. Soon I had people asking if I was the “Stanley D. Way” who had written about the attacks. In the post 9/11 patriotism my words ended up getting emailed more than I’ll ever know, and even being published in two newspapers that I know of.

Now, with terrible grammar, no new editing, and fresh emotion from the memories these words stirred within me, I share with you what I wrote in my room that night many years ago:

Not In My Country

How? We’re Americans. How could it have happened? Not in my country. Not the United States of America. We’re the strongest nation on the planet. We eat at McDonalds once a day and buy new shoes at our malls all the time. We’re the definition of capitalism. We’re free. But not anymore. People in Jerusalem were free once, but not any more. They are careful when they walk down the streets now. Military personnel are everywhere in the streets…Now it’ll be the same for us. Our freedom has been hit right where it hurts the most, in our economic pocketbooks, in our democratically emotional minds that have been pre-set to the fact that we live in the USA and we’re the greatest nation on Earth…

Nobody I knew died yesterday.

But everyone who died yesterday was someone I knew. They were my fellow country men and women. They learned The Pledge of Allegiance in kindergarten, sometimes putting their left hands over their hearts because they didn’t know any better, and they stood at all of those parades where our colors of red, white, and blue were marched by in front of us. Everyone who died yesterday woke up knowing they were safe because the only people who hurt Americans are Americans. They knew that they might be mugged walking to the World Trade Center, or get stuck in traffic and cuss on the drive to the Pentagon. Some of the people were flying through the most free airspace in the world, enjoying the entertainment of jets that weigh millions of pounds. I knew everyone who died yesterday. They were Americans. And I cried for them. And I prayed for them. I asked God why. And the only answer I received was a deep and heaving feeling of sorrow upon my heart.

We saw it. We all saw it. Plane #2, snap, flames…gone in an instant. Lives gone. Maybe they were the lucky ones…Others suffered the collapse of those giant architectural wonders. Those in our nation’s heart of defense might have burned in the largest building in Washington…Some gave up and jumped 80 stories to the bottom of that concrete jungle…

But I’m going to tell you it’s okay.

Like yesterday when we woke up, we are still Americans.

Today it is estimated that nearly 100,000 people gave blood. God bless them. Hundreds drove hours to New York to help in any way they could. One man on the news drove from Vermont so he could support the rescue efforts. And that Vermont man moved concrete and steel in a bucket all day long, from dusk till dawn. God bless him. He is the true and living spirit of America.

We united today in a way we have never united before. We united as true compassionate people. There were no political, racial, economical, religious, or unfounded divisions. And maybe, just maybe, for the first time ever we united fully in an emotional way as The United States of America. And for those of us with that yearning in our hearts to serve our fellow man today, to reach out and care, God Bless Us, and God Bless the USA…Because with that spirit, even if our nation is turned into a pile of rubble by terrorists, our nation will never really be gone.

America will live forever in our hearts and actions.

Like yesterday we are still the greatest nation on the face of the planet. And tomorrow we will eat at McDonalds, and spend money carelessly like we Americans do. Because we know our best days are ahead.

It’s not in our constitution, but we do it because we can.

And we can because we’re free.

And we’re free because we’re Americans.

Our spirits will never let that die.

God Bless America.

- Stanley D. Way

9/12/01

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