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Of One Heart: My Hero

July 2010


Liz Howell is one of my heroes. Nearly nine years ago on 9/11, most of us were focused on the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York City. But Liz was focused on the Pentagon, 228 miles away in Washington, D.C. That’s where her husband, Brady, had just landed his dream job in national security following graduate school. Tragically, Brady did not survive the attack.

Liz could have gone home to Honeyville, Utah, and given up her dream—to become a nurse practitioner. But three months later, she helped carry the 2002 Olympic Torch from Atlanta to Salt Lake City. Her segment? Up the south lawn of the White House, where she handed the torch to President George Bush. And then she finished graduate school.

Liz is my hero not because of her past challenges but because of her persistent courage. After graduate school, she served — at age 30 — an LDS mission to Portugal. She then went to work for LDS Charities, the humanitarian arm of the Church.

“After my mission, I decided I wanted to do humanitarian work full-time,” said Liz. “I interviewed for an internship with the Church Welfare Department. Initially they scoffed at the idea that I would trade a nurse practitioner salary for a minimum wage internship. They questioned my motives but learned I was serious even if it meant a severe pay cut and no benefits! So, with eyebrows raised, I got the internship. Six months later I was hired full-time.”

I met Liz when she was an intern. When asked about her background, she modestly told me only where she went to school. It wasn’t until this January that I read the rest of her story in the Deseret News. It shared an anecdote of her tenderly caring for and saving the life of an 8-year-old boy in Haiti following the disaster there.

“Liz has a deep desire to serve those in need,” said Dean Walker, who manages neonatal resuscitation training and vision programs for LDS Charities. “She works hard to make sure each project will be sustainable and effective. Her efforts daily bless the lives of those we serve.”

And that’s what is so special about Liz. You can feel it in her own words.

“I do what I do because it’s meaningful,” she said. “It’s substantive, and it makes me happy. I feel fulfilled in what I’m doing. It puts my life in perspective. I realize I’m not the only one out there who has problems — that everyone is in need in some way.”

Last week, Liz Howell’s 10-year journey of tragedy and triumph was spotlighted at the Provo Freedom Awards Gala. The journey has been bittersweet — a tremendous loss followed by opportunities that have allowed her to bless the lives of others.

“For people who have experienced personal tragedies,” said Liz, “the one thing that I would want them to know is to stay true — to hang in there — and there will be a better day. It may not be when you want it to come, but if you’ll just hang in there, life will get better.”

Thank you, Liz, for being an inspiration to all of us.

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