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UM's Consider Loses In Tragedy

Sept. 13, 2001 Reports begin of United Methodist deaths, narrow escapes
A UMNS Report By Tom McAnally*

United Methodists hoped it wouldn't happen, but knew it would.

Congregations, families and friends are learning that their own loved ones are among those killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. While they seek solace, other United Methodists are dealing with mixed emotions as they learn their loved ones have narrowly escaped danger.

Jane Dennis, director of communications for the church's Arkansas Area, reports that Sara Beth Low, a 28-year-old flight attendant was among those killed on United Flight 11 which crashed into the World Trade Center. The flight, originating in Boston, was bound for Los Angeles. Low was confirmed as a youth at First United Methodist Church in Batesville, Ark.

From the California-Nevada Annual Conference, United Methodist News Service has learned that the mother of Mark Bingham, killed on United Flight 93 in Pennsylvania, is a member at Los Gatos, Calif., United Methodist Church. [see Pro-homosexuality UM's Exploit Tragedy To Fabricate Gay Hero In PA Plane Crash]

Gina Wingo, wife of a United Methodist pastor in Pocahontas, Ark., described Low, her cousin, as a "very beautiful young lady who loved her job as a flight attendant and was very passionate about flying. She was really enjoying life."

Low was the daughter of Mike and Bobbie Low of Batesville. During high school, she was active in the church's youth program. She attended the University of Arkansas and worked in the family business at Batesville before embarking on a career in the airline industry. She was residing in New York City at the time of the crash and had recently moved into a new apartment.

Low was not scheduled to work Flight 11, but volunteered as a substitute when another employee cancelled. The plane was carrying 81 passengers, nine flight attendants and two pilots.

"It just doesn't seem real, when you watch it on TV, that that's part of your family," Wingo said. "When they say, 'our prayers go out to the families,' it's difficult to realize that applies to your family."

Like many other churches, the Batesville congregation held a prayer service the night of the crash. Several people were moved to share eulogies and memories of Low, said the Rev. LaVon Post, senior pastor.

"She was a Batesville girl," Post said, "so like the rest of the country, we're still in a stupor, walking around in a daze. And then to find out we lost one of ours ... Batesville is hurting with the rest of the country."

When Alice Hogland's son called from the plane that ultimately crashed in Pennsylvania, it cheered and shocked her, according to a news report filed by California-Nevada communicator Ted Langdell.

"Hi, Mom . . .I love you very much," Mark Bingham [see Pro-homosexuality UM's Exploit Tragedy To Fabricate Gay Hero In PA Plane Crash] told his mother from the Boeing 757. "I'm calling you from the plane. We've been taken over. There are three men that say they have a bomb."

Bingham, 31, was a public relations executive who lived and worked in San Francisco. In the phone conversation, he indicated that he and several other passenger were planning to do something about the hijacking, his mother told reporters. Then he was apparently distracted and the phone went dead, she said.

The flight had 37 other passengers, two pilots and five flight attendants on board. It took off from Newark, N.J., bound for San Francisco when it was hijacked.

The Rev. Margo Tenold, a former pastor at Los Gatos Church, said Hogland was showing "remarkable strength and poise and faith in the face of her loss." She was interviewed on NBC's "Today Show," agreeing with the host that her son's phone call was a gift. Hearing from him directly made his death easier to take, she said.

Another report of a United Methodist family in Arkansas had a much happier ending. Bob Moore, organist and church administrator at First United Methodist Church in Russellville, told of the narrow escape from the World Trade Center by his only son, Robert, a member of the Russellville Church.

In an e-mail message to the United Methodist offices in Little Rock, he said his son, who works on the 78 th floor of the World Trade Center Tower Two, set his alarm for 6:30 a.m., to go in early but hit the snooze button and went back to sleep.

"He arrived about five minutes after the plane hit," his father said. "When he got off the subway, he looked up and the buildings were a ball of fire." Moore stood briefly with a co-worker and witnessed the horror, then fled, according to his father. "He got back to his apartment in mid- Manhattan and went up to the roof and watched the buildings crumble."

The elder Moore said he was getting ready for work when his wife saw the news and called him. Soon the church's pastor, the Rev. Mackey Yokem, and other friends and relatives came to the home and started praying.

"The phone kept ringing and each time we prayed that it was Robert calling," Moore said. "After about an hour and a half that seemed like an eternity, Robert finally called. He had lost his cell phone and was in a state of shock when he called. ... Everyone in our living room screamed for joy when I said it was Robert."

Moore said his first impulse was to shout for joy and praise God that Robert was alive. But then he began to think about the other parents. "I am deeply saddened about the thought of those parents that will never get this call from their child. My wife and I offer our most heartfelt prayers for these parents, and for our country and the leaders of our country."

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*McAnally is director of United Methodist News Service, the church's official news agency headquartered in Nashville with offices in New York and Washington.


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