A Better Man than Me

Left Standing by Mason WellsIt may not seem like I have been reading a lot purely based on my blog output as of late.  Truth is, I have been reading a lot, just having troubles finding time to actually write about it.  There are actually three books that have already been read just  sitting on my desk waiting for me to take the time to write up a recollection.  That isn’t even including the featured book for today’s post.  The main reason this one is ready is thanks to it being a dog show weekend giving me some down time to write up the takeaways.  At this rate, thinking the others might make it sometime around, oh well, let’s go with October.  Featured today is a book Left Standing: The Miraculous Story of How Mason Wells’s Faith Survived the Boston, Paris and Brussels Terror Attacks by Mason Wells, Tyler Beddoes and Billy Hallowell.  It is a bit of a departure for me.  Although it is a book that focuses on the evils that exist in the world.  Okay, that part isn’t the departure point, but this read was about how faith allowed Mason Wells to come to terms with being either near or directly involved with three terror attacks – the Boston Marathon bombing, the Paris terror attack and in the middle of the Brussels airport bombing.  Think I heard about it from an interview Hannity did with the author.  Sounded interesting enough to spend some time with it (around 160 large spaced pages made for a quick two night read).  From a summary perspective it had a bit more on the faith element and less on the terror survival aspect that I would have preferred.  From a survival perspective, he was technically at or near the Boston and the Paris attacks, but surviving feels like a stretch.  Now, the Brussell’s airport, no doubt about it.  He was severely maimed in that ordeal being at the heart of the blast while standing in the check-in line.  This left him severely injured requiring seven surgeries, three hundred stitches, two hundred staples and several skin bandage changes   All of this and he was still able to deliver on his childhood dream of entering the Naval Academy and serving his country.  Always admire individuals who overcome adversity and reach their goals (one of the reasons this book sounded intriguing).  Turns out Mason was at this tragedy while on his missionary work for his Mormon faith.  Through all these trails, Mason believed his God had a plan for him and he accepted and made the decision difficult decision to follow it.  The stunning aspect, it is his faith that allowed him to forgive those that perpetrated these acts of barbarianism.  For this I’ve determined that Mason is truly a better man than I.  If there is one fault that I readily admit to, it’s my lack of compassion for those that want to initiate harm upon others.  My “bad list” are well known by those that know me – make it on that list and you might be able to make amends to get off, but you will never be forgotten.  Hard pressed to believe that turning the other cheek is the appropriate response when it comes to terror.  There are instances when you just need to cut the cancer out.

Hit the jump for my takeaways.

  • Was at the Boston Marathon bombing while cheering for his mother on April 15, 2013
  • Was left standing in own pool of blood from the Brussels Airport bombing on March 22, 2016 with second/third degree burns to face and hands, shrapnel throughout body broken left hand and ruptured Achilles tendon
  • Believes as faith exceeds fears we are more inclined to make changes in our own lives leading to a more God-filled world.  An interesting viewpoint but i can clearly seeing this perspective twisted from the viewpoint of those trying to inflict fear in the name of their supposed exulted on.
  • His premise is if he can forgive those who altered his life, he can possibly help others do the same
  • In most cases religions brought about good, but acknowledged others manipulate and twist for their own justification – to those he reserves judgement to his God.
  • Believes few athletic events cultivate and display sportsmanship like a marathon noting that there are few events where simply finishing is a cause for celebration.  A victory over inner self rather than triumph over fellow man.  I have to wholeheartedly agree on this.  There is something about the instant bonds that are made when a group of people are experiencing a similar struggle.  I can still remember strangers on the side of the road cheering us on, driving us to conquer our fears and keep going.  Same can me said of fellow runners who even though on their last bit of energy will still expend some to offer words of encouragement as they pass by.  This is hard to relate to those who have not completed a marathon or similar feat which is why we will NEVER let someone take it away from us – much less through the actions of evil zealots.
  • When Boston bombs went off, Mason’s Dad told him to head back to the hotel while he looked for their Mom.  Mason (15 at the time) did protest, but quickly heeded his father’s wishes.  I read that a few times and wondered what I would have done – granted there was a significant amount of chaos and adding additional worries to the Dad wasn’t going to help, but I honestly do not think I would have complied choosing instead to face the crisis by his side
  • Sure to blow the minds of snowflakes across the great country, Mason set his sights on being in the military at a very young age and commented on the joys he had playing army as a little kid.  I can only acknowledge my gratitude for people willing to serve their country, willing to subject themselves to the horrors of war so others can leave the life of peace.  People must accept there is evil in the world and even close to home that can only be conquered through superior strength,  Talk all you want, pontificate all you want, an army of huggers is a people soon on their knees.
  • The tragedy in life does not lie in not achieving your goals, rather having no goals to reach
  • It really wasn’t until a third of the way into the book did I realize he was of Mormon faith – he was called to serve for two years in Paris, France after his senior year of high school – he was there when the Paris was attacked
  • Noted that when he got to France there where 2,000 Syrian refugees living there – by the time of the attack over 8,000 living in a quadrant of the city called the jungle.  They were destitute and the author found himself traveling in dangerous areas noting there were some good people in those areas, but also some bad ones.  He kept his tasks focused on his mission work
  • He was seeing people off at the station less than two hours before bombs ripped through it killing everyone in that same metro car
  • He and three of his fellow missionaries were in the check-in at the Brussels airport thirty seconds when the bombs went off.  He ended being the only left standing in line – everyone else including his friends were blown away/down (thus the title of the book).   As he made his way to the door ten seconds later the second explosion went off 40 meters to the right.
  • Mason made his way out to the sidewalk where he was about to medical attention when the shooting started- he hid under a discarded blanket in hopes they would pass by – the shooter was taken care of before being discovered
  • As a missionary, he is only allowed to communicate with his family once a week and only by email
  • He had to undergo skin grafts from a cadaver
  • After many surgeries, the FBI was able to eventually fly him home to Utah
  • Ironically, had an atheist doctor in Brussels
  • Mason methodically and with perseverance brought his body back into shape under the belief he was on his God’s time and everything would work out.  After many long weeks after the blast he was finally able to leave the hospital and return home seven surgeries, three hundred stitches, two hundred staples and several skin bandage changes,
  • 10 months post blast, Mason was accepted into the Naval Academy class of 2021- his childhood dream fulfilled.  I expect there will be few times there that are more challenges then what he has already been through.
  • Believes his God has a plan for everyone, but those plans have freedom of choice
  • Forgiveness is about the decision to sacrifice grudges, longstanding anger and other damaging emotions – this is what sets Mason apart from me – hats off to a better man than I.  Someday I might get there, but as of now, I simply am not,
  • Noted that positivity makes all the difference choosing to be a survivor and not a victim (now on the not being a victim I am totally in agreement)
  • Believes that the burden of hate is compounded when we allow the evil actions of others to dictate our attitudes and approach to life.  An interesting perspective seeing as how he is in the military tasked with removing evil so others can live with less hate.
  • Criticism rarely advances anything in life.  Will augment that a bit and say non-constructive criticism rarely advances anything in life.  Without constructive criticism we absolutely do NOT advance in life rather chart the same unproductive past

2 thoughts on “A Better Man than Me”

  1. Very interesting review! An odd choice to join the military but preach to turn the other cheek. The military can be quite unforgiving given the job they have to do. I expected you to say he is serving as a chaplain.

    I went through the Brussels airport several years ago, and ask I encountered was a very, very rude train station guy who sounded French.

    “My “bad list” are well known by those that know me – make it on that list and you might be able to make amends to get off, but you will never be forgotten.” No kidding, ask any bird that’s ever been on your “bad list”–cowbirds, blue jays, etc. You ain’t gettin’ off. 🙂

    Thanks for another cool book review!

    Ron

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  2. Yes, the irony in that contradiction of aggressive occupation and passive disposition seems like a bad mix when it comes to one’s task in life. Never considered the Chaplain role – that might be interesting, but he noted in the book he liked to hang out in the bushes in front of his house as a kid and sneak up on approaching enemies.

    Unlike some of the merchant’s who have tried to get off my list, at least they can communicate with me – these birds are going to need to come up with a clever means to earn them being erased off the list – Almost had to the Bumblebee after our last birding outing.

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