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Member faith not shattered

‘We see hope in their eyes’

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NEW YORK CITY — Elder W. Craig Zwick of the Seventy and president of the North America Northeast Area spent the weekend visiting members and missionaries in lower Manhattan to express the love and concern of the First Presidency for their welfare.

"We see hope in their eyes," he said, after meeting many members and all the missionaries of the three missions serving in the area. "The faith of the members in the New York area has been tested and they have been found faithful and are stronger than they have ever been.

"There is a feeling of unity and confidence about the members. They are looking forward and not wondering why this had to happen. Their faith is not shattered.

"New York is a different place," he said. "New Yorkers now look into your eyes as if to say thanks."

Elder Zwick sat in the living room of Albert and Jean Woodhouse, long-time Manhattan residents and members of the Manhattan 5th Ward, who live four blocks north of Ground Zero. Brother Woodhouse described: "We know that the members of the Church are concerned about us and we truly appreciate that concern . . . the outpouring of love has been truly overwhelming.

"Things are under control," he said. "Our bishops have done a great job and members feel secure here. We so appreciate the Church organization."

Megumi Vogelmann and her husband, Tom, live on the 34th floor of a high rise overlooking the World Trade Center site. She also echoed her appreciation for Church-member support following the tragedy. Her visiting teachers brought a gift basket to make sure she and her husband were all right.

Events of Sept. 11 caused some tense moments for the 45 members who live around the site of the attack. Sister Vogelmann said she was in her apartment when she felt the dull shudder of the first jet slamming into the World Trade Center. She called to her husband to come and see the smoke filling the sky just outside their window.

"We could see people waving white flags from the top of the building trying to attract attention," she said. "I told my husband we needed to leave, but he was mesmerized at the sight as the second jet exploded into the second building."

They saw big plumes of smoke and dust heading directly for their apartment as the first building collasped. "It looked like snow," said Sister Vogelmann. "Luckily for us the wind was blowing southeast away from the apartment and stopped about a block away on Christopher Street."

Electrical power went out in the area when the planes hit, leaving people in the high rises without elevators and lights. Brother Woodhouse climbed 34 stories in a darkened stairwell with a flashlight to check on the Vogelmanns.

Sister Vogelmann, who three weeks prior had undergone knee surgery, felt she wasn't able to walk down the stairs. Neighborhood volunteers offered to help. "But I said a prayer and got up and started walking. I was on my feet for 12 hours that day."

Sister Vogelmann lived with the Woodhouses for seven days until power was restored.

Sister Vogelmann and Brother and Sister Woodhouse went directly to the Salvation Army checkpoint to help in the rescue efforts. "You didn't have to say anything to anyone," said Brother Woodhouse. "Everyone just got up and went to work."

Sister Vogelmann said while she was riding down to the checkpoint she saw thousands of people lining the streets waving flags and holding signs encouraging the rescue workers. "The unity was amazing. New Yorkers have a reputation of not being friendly, but everyone has really come together," she said.

The Woodhouses and Sister Vogelmann went to work over the next few days helping the Salvation Army distribute relief supplies to the rescue workers and volunteers. Brother Woodhouse managed to walk into the area surrounding the collapsed buildings where he swept floors, assembled wheelbarrows and set up cots for the firemen.

Both the Woodhouses and Sister Vogelmann pointed out to Elder Zwick that professional rescue workers from around the country raced to the scene and relieved them of their duties. President Brent Belnap of the New York Stake, which includes all Manhattan, offered to mobilize the local members to help in the rescue efforts, but was advised to have the members donate blood and give money to the charities assisting in the rescue efforts. Officials also requested that people stop donating food, water and other supplies because it was stacking up and going to waste.

While meeting with members in their homes Elder Zwick conveyed the love and support of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.

All things considered, said President Belnap, the stake has come through very well. He said there have been no reports of loss of life in his stake. Some of the members who worked in the towers had some close calls. However, he was able to account for everyone, thanks to the tireless efforts of stake members working a phone tree to make sure everyone was all right.

President Belnap said some of the 45 members who live around the trade centers have been displaced and are looking for housing and new employment. "Some of our members lost everything," he said. "One member called and said six families needed housing immediately. By the end of the day, all six families had housing, thanks to the efforts of our local members." Some of the members have now been allowed back into their apartments.

Emergency preparedness and food storage also became an issue the first few days after the attack. The first items Brother Woodhouse said he needed were flashlights and water. "We immediately filled the bathtub to make sure we had extra," he said. "We ran out of milk in a hurry and the stores ran out of food." The Woodhouses were able to pick up extra supplies such as bread and milk from the Salvation Army.

Storage space in Manhattan is at a premium, which makes food storage difficult. However, Sister Vogelmann had stored water under her bed and sofa table and was actually able to share some with her neighbors. She said her neighbors were so impressed that they came to her apartment to see how and where the water was stored.

"It's your faith and testimony that will bring you peace in times of stress," the Woodhouses said.