Friday, January 21, 2011

Not How I Was Expecting to Die

I was not expecting to die in the Marriott Center at BYU

It was the first time I'd had a date to a fireside. All the other times I'd just gone with my roommates. But for this one, I had a date. I was pretty excited. But I have to admit, I was even more excited to hear the speaker, Elder Howard W. Hunter who was practically the prophet of our church.

The Marriott Center had nearly filled it's 22,700 seats with equally excited BYU students, all there to hear one of the apostles speak to them. It was February 7, 1993. After the opening hymn and prayer, Elder Hunter stood and began speaking. Minutes into his talk, someone from the crowd began yelling. He jumped over the railing in the stands and started running towards the dais.

We found out later the man was Cody Judy. Not a student, but a man with a plan.

"I have a bomb!" he shouted as he rushed towards the rostrum. He was carrying a brief case, which I assumed had the bomb. You could hear the confused murmurs in the crowd. I turned to my date. "What do we do?" I said.

By this time Cody Judy was standing right next to Elder Hunter who was standing steadfast and immovable. The other dignitaries on the dais had evacuated. The only other people still left were Elder Hunter's two bodyguards. They would not move either, even though Cody Judy demanded they do so. He thrust a stack of papers in front of Elder Hunter and demanded he read them. Elder Hunter would not.

We later learned that these pages were a document detailing Cody Judy's plan for him to be the church's new leader.

The crowd of students in the Marriott Center understandably became more agitated. I clearly remember thinking that I never would have imagined that I would die this way: in a bomb blast at a church fireside. I wondered how big of a crater would be left in the place of the Marriott Center. I felt a strange peace though--like I was in the right place, and that I wasn't alone.

Out of the confusion of all the students, some rushing for the doors, others crying, a few started singing, We Thank Thee O God For a Prophet. It wasn't long before everyone had joined in. It completely changed the spirit from one of confusion to one of strength. I felt peace.

Cody Judy looked out at the crowd and smiled. He thought we were singing to him! Of course we weren't, but it was enough of a distraction that a group of students who were sitting behind the dais in the stands jumped out and were able to take him down. Security staff then came in and got things under control.

Elder Hunter's own security guards immediately moved him to the floor and shielded him. But it was quickly over and Cody Judy was hauled away. The contents of his brief case, besides his manifesto, were a taped up mobile phone that was supposed to look like a detonator, and some 8x10 glossies of Cody himself. No bomb.

After a few more hymns, now led by the chorister and accompanied by the organist, Elder Hunter stood up to speak. The title of the talk, An Anchor to the Souls of Men. The first words out of his mouth after that 10 or 15 minutes of terror were this:

"Life has a fair number of challenges in it, and that's true of life in the 1990's. Indeed you may be feeling that you have more than your share of problems."

We all laughed at the irony and I think Elder Hunter chuckled too. He went on to give a wonderful talk and we all went home afterwards, changed forever.


I-Shüan Warr said...

I was there too! Where were you sitting? :-)

I do remember that too and remember having a hard time believing that it was really happening. It was pretty cool seeing how strong Pres. Hunter was though!

Did you know Cody Judy ran for office a time or two after that? He didn't win.

Afton said...

Amanda Larimer was there too. Weird, huh. I guess there were probably 15,000 people there, so chances are we would eventually run into others. I was sitting on the west end. That's about all I remember.

Natalie said...

As you know, I was there as well. But I was not as forward-thinking as you and did not record much about it. I'm impressed that you thought to write down his first sentences after the incident.

Natalie said...
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Afton said...

Natalie, I didn't record his exact words, but I think I had something similar. I remember them being ironic at the time. But I found his talk on line.

Emily Laing said...

I was watching from Ricks as it was also broadcast there. I remember how remarkable it was that even though our feed was cut off when Cody Judy rushed the stage, we all ended up singing the same song. Did you know that? United by the spirit I guess. Although we couldn't see you guys or hear you, we were singing it at the same time. What a weird and inspiring experience that was. Thanks for reminding me.

Our Family said...

So Rich and I were there too, as you maybe remember. Who were you on the date with? Not Steve Young, right? That was later. ; )

Afton said...

Strangely, I did not write the name of my date in my journal, but I think it was Cory. I doubled with Suzanne and Nate. I think.