Facebook Twitter

2 LDS members are dead at the Pentagon

Others missing; church sends funds to help rescuers

SHARE 2 LDS members are dead at the Pentagon

Two members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who worked at the Pentagon have been confirmed dead while others remain missing as workers continue to sift through the rubble there.

Meanwhile, the church has sent money to help with search-and-rescue efforts.

Geoff Howard, a public affairs analyst with the church's office of International and Government Affairs in Washington, D.C., said Thursday morning that two church members had been killed. No names were available at press time, but additional information was expected to be released later in the day.

Howard said he didn't know how many members remain missing.

Church spokesman Dale Bills said he could not confirm the death toll at press time.

Elder Sheldon F. Child, president of the church's North America East Area, said Wednesday that several church members work in the Pentagon "and we know there were some in that building," though he was "not aware of any ecclesiastical leaders at this time" who may have been there. As of Thursday morning, church leaders in Washington were continuing to inventory who among their members remained missing.

"It's a tremendous tragedy. Our prayers are certainly with all those that have been involved and their families. Our members with their background have an understanding of gospel principles," he said.

Four missions are headquartered in or near Washington, with a total of some 500 missionaries who have all been accounted for.

Howard said the devastation there has left many residents speechless, noting the subway ride into work on Wednesday was eerily quiet. "I live a mile from the Pentagon and went over to a hill across the street several times on Tuesday where I had a good view of the city.

"I could see the Washington Monument standing tall in the background with the Pentagon burning in front of it. I turned to my roommate and said, 'Whoever would have imagined this?' It's a picture that will stick in my mind for a long time."

While many church members have been personally affected in the East, members across the country are wondering how they can help.

Humanitarian support is already under way on a formal level. The church Wednesday donated $160,000 to the American Red Cross — $150,000 to aid search-and-rescue work in the East and $10,000 to the local chapter to offset costs of food and shelter for stranded travelers.

Presiding Bishop H. David Burton said it's too soon to know whether members are increasing their donations to the church's humanitarian fund because most donations flow through local wards and branches, rather than being sent directly to church headquarters.

"We have had lots of inquiries here as to how to respond and what individuals can do. There is obviously a great groundswell of feeling out there," he said.

He said donations to the fund or to the Red Cross are suggested, in addition to donating blood.

As for additional church resources going to relief efforts, "at this point we're awaiting word from those on the ground as to what their resource needs may be. Maybe they will ask for other things, but given the nature of this particular disaster, the clothing, food and shelter needs are not there. The daily expense of helping with rescue workers and getting people to victim's families seems to be the prevailing need."

The church has offered the Red Cross free access to its network of family services and social work practitioners in Washington, New York and Pennsylvania to be available for counseling or emotional needs.

The church's Welfare Square reported receiving lots of telephone calls Tuesday afternoon from volunteers wanting to help in some way. They were told help will be mobilized through local wards and stakes. In the East, President Noel Stoker of the New York New York North Mission said he spent the day Tuesday just locating missionaries," two of whom weren't found until about 11:30 p.m."

He said the pair were headed to Ellis Island and were on the subway virtually under the Trade Towers when the first plane struck. The missionaries finally found shelter in a Doubletree Hotel lobby. However, Stoker said the missionaries were just covered with soot and dust when they were found and their ties were trashed.

"They had used their ties to breath through," he said. Some New York missionaries have volunteered at the Red Cross and local hospitals. Others have been visiting members and investigators offering comfort and assistance. However, he said those downtown are restricted to stay where they are.

Elder Craig Zwick, president of the North America Northeast Area, said Wednesday that some church members, many of them from the New York New York stake, were near the center of the explosions there. "There was no one killed or injured, but we had some with plenty of blood on them."

Member Nicole Parker was on the 103rd floor of the north tower and saw the first plane hit the south tower. "She got out through a series of elevators" before the tower collapsed onto the street below.

Jonathan Hill, son of Brigham Young University professor Ned Hill, works for Lehman Brothers in Manhattan and "actually saw the second plane hit" the World Trade Center. "He saw pieces as big as cars come out of the air and was running," but wasn't hit, though "a man two steps behind him was hit by large piece" of debris.

Hill "walked all the way to 63rd street where he lives after assisting" the injured man, he said. Four other members walked as far as 90th street because they didn't want to get on the subway.

Contributing: Lynn Arave

E-MAIL: carrie@desnews.com