'We pause to honor in those who died'
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As it did a year ago, the Nauvoo Bell on Temple Square in Salt Lake City chimed 12 times precisely at noon Sept. 11, signaling the start of a memorial service in the Tabernacle remembering the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001.
In a brief address, President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, gave eloquent voice to the feelings of the near-capacity congregation attending the program, which was conducted by President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency. (President Gordon B. Hinckley, traveling in Europe, was not present.)
But it was the Tabernacle Choir that touched the heart strings of those in attendance. During the choir's concluding rendition of "America the Beautiful," the congregation stood spontaneously at the line, "America, God shed his grace on thee." Some people dabbed their eyes with handkerchiefs. A solemn-faced Ed Betenson of St. George, Utah, dressed in uniform stood at rapt attention, his hand raised to his brow in a military salute for the duration of the song.
"Today we pause briefly to join our fellow countrymen everywhere to honor in sacred remembrance those who died as well as those who survived the events of a year ago today," President Faust said in his address.
"On September 11, 2001, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., were hit by terrorist-controlled airliners, while another crashed in Pennsylvania. These vicious acts caused the twin towers to collapse and severely damaged the Pentagon building. This was a deliberate attack intended to inflict as much destruction, pain, and death to as many victims as possible. It was a pernicious assault upon our nation. It was an evil conspiracy. It caused a loss of our national innocence. It changed forever the way we live our lives, how we travel, and how we feel towards our fellow human beings."
While the event caused a loss of feeling secure, "the greatest tragedy of it all was the loss of human life," President Faust noted. "All were innocent. Over 2,800 were killed with malice aforethought."
Remarking that the death of even one citizen is incalculable, he quoted a statement from Jewish Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits: "One human life is as precious as a million lives for each is infinite in value."
"These ignoble acts of terrorism reawakened in all of us an appreciation for our blessed land, President Faust observed. "Out of this disaster have come hundreds of stories of courageous acts of unselfishness and heroism. Ours is the most favored nation ever established on this planet. Its bounty is endless. The opportunities it affords to us are immeasurable. We as its citizens are among the most favored of any of God's children ever to live under any government on the earth. This is still true despite our country's many challenges and difficulties. With all of these favored circumstances come the responsibilities and duties of citizenship.
Alluding to a line from "The Star-Spangled Banner," President Faust said, "We should be participants, not merely bystanders, in the processes of democracy to 'preserve us as a nation.'
"Institutions of government and those officers and magistrates elected or appointed need our loyal support in order to secure for us the continuing cornucopia of blessings that come from the freedoms available in this country. God Almighty established this land. He raised up giants among men as our founding fathers. They acted for us 'the people' who were and who remain sovereign. The motto stamped on our coins 'In God We Trust' must also be stamped in our hearts and minds."
He quoted this line from Thomas Jefferson's first inaugural address: "May that infinite power which rules the destinies of the universe lead our councils to do what is best and give them a favorable issue for your peace and prosperity."
"We extend our deepest sympathy to the families and friends of those who sustained death or hurt in these dreadful events," President Faust said. "May He who is the divine Comforter sustain and bring solace to all of us."
In brief comments at the opening of the service, President Monson said, "Well remembered are the acts of bravery of those who did their best to save others and those who gave their lives in this heroic effort. In one of our beloved hymns are the comforting words, 'In my Gethsemane, Savior and friend, constant He is and kind, love without end.' (Hymns No. 129)."
In his invocation, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve prayed that "we will never forget the acts of courage and heroism from the policemen and firemen and military personnel and citizens upon the ground and in the air upon that fateful day."
Sharon G. Larson, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, in her benediction, expressed gratitude that "in a city where so much hatred was exhibited last year, there will be a temple built to the Prince of Peace, even Jesus Christ."
Directed by Craig Jessop, the choir began the first selection, "Nearer, My God, to Thee" (Hymns No. 100) in a reverent a capella. A plaintive organ introduction served as a segue to "The Lord Is My Shepherd," (Hymns No. 108) beginning with the sopranos in a quiet unison and swelling in broad crescendo with the full choir on the lines: "In the midst of affliction my table is spread. With blessings unmeasured my cup runneth o'er." The effect was one of fervent hope and assurance.
Similarly, the choir began "God of Our Fathers Whose Almighty Hand" (Hymns No. 78) with a male a capella in unison, swelling to the full choir on the second verse, and bringing in the familiar organ fanfare at the start of the third verse, rendered large and full, with the lines that expressed the common petition of millions of Americans in the wake of last Sept. 11: "From war's alarms, from deadly pestilence, Be thy strong arm our ever sure defense."