Accounting for Members
Shortly after 9 a.m., Brent Belnap, who was serving as president of the New York New York Stake, ascended the stairs from a subway station near Wall Street on his way to work. He looked up and noticed sheets of paper fluttering in the air like confetti. Then he saw thick, black smoke billowing from the Twin Towers.
Belnap says his natural inclination would have been to stay and watch with the crowd of people that was gathering out of curiosity. “But at that moment, I felt on my right shoulder the most unmistakable feeling of a hand pushing me to go,” he says. “It pushed me so hard that I was running by the time I got to the end of the street.”
He rushed to his office, where he learned of the terrorist attacks. Soon after, the South
Tower fell, and he watched from a 15th floor window as a giant dust cloud suddenly swept down the street. “It just rumbled and roiled. It was like a bomb or a mushroom cloud or a volcano. All the people in the crowd outside scattered like rats. Suddenly, it got pitch black outside.”
After calling his wife, Belnap immediately began calling and e-mailing the bishops in his stake and asking them to account for their members. He then called Elder W. Craig Zwick of the Seventy and president of the North America Northeast Area to update him on the situation. Belnap’s second counselor, Jim Green, opened the stake center (where the Manhattan Temple now stands) as a shelter for anyone who needed it.
“I was in the tiny little portion of Manhattan that had power, internet, and phone service,” Belnap recalls. “I had communication to the outside world. I stayed for about three hours.” Then, at the urging of security personnel, Belnap covered his face with some wet paper towels and began walking north, the air still thick with dust from the collapse of both towers.
Eventually all stake members were accounted for. “There were many tender mercies, many lives spared that day,” Belnap says. “There were several members who should have been at the World Trade Center that day but weren’t.”