I've been sorting through my collection of books and papers and donating what I can to the new Mormon Studies program at Utah State University, my alma mater.
And while rustling around in a couple of boxes, I unearthed the transcript of my questions to President Gordon B. Hinckley just 72 hours after the terrorists had leveled the World Trade Center towers.
He'd been talking with Larry King on national television about the events. Afterward, Bruce Lindsay of KSL and I got a chance to spend a minute or two with him. I said:
"Some people will see apocalyptic visions in what's happened. What would you say to those people?"
I printed a few lines of his response the next day in the paper. Several frustrated readers phoned to say they didn't want excerpts. They wanted his full answer to the question.
So, because his advice that night seems to hold true for the Tucson tragedy as well, here's what President Hinckley had to say. Remember, this was right after the attacks. People were angry, afraid and terribly confused.
These were his thoughts:
Well, I don't know that I see apocalyptic visions.
(He paused to gaze deep within himself.)
But this is a terrible thing, the worst thing in the history of this nation.
More serious than Pearl Harbor.
More serious than the sinking of the Titanic.
More serious than the worst air disaster that ever occurred.
This was a thing unthinkable.
But from it we can draw wisdom.
From it we can draw strength.
From it we can draw lessons.
From it we can listen and get counsel concerning our lives and the need to live in a wholesome, good, conservative manner and keep this nation strong. The strength of the nation lies in the strength of its people. And we must do what we can as individuals to add to that strength and not subtract from it.
When he declared the tragedy "a thing unthinkable," despair was visible in his eyes. But yet, in the next sentence, he looks for the light, and he tells Latter-day Saints how they should proceed after such mindless destruction.
Today, as we mourn another national tragedy, his riveting response speaks to us again from the dust.