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Shadow terrorists’ anthrax took her husband but not her faith

WASHINGTON (BP)–Theirs was an honest-to-goodness love story. The tale of Thomas, a Washington postal worker, and Mary, a Southern Baptist church secretary. He loved to bowl. She loved his hugs. They planned on growing old together. But on Oct. 21 their love story ended — cruelly at the hands of shadow terrorists in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

Thomas L. Morris, 55, of Suitland, Md., died after apparently inhaling anthrax bacteria at the U.S. Postal Service office in the Brentwood section of northeast Washington.

Morris had complained of flu-like symptoms before arriving at the hospital.

It’s been several months since her husband died and Mary, the church secretary at Kendall Baptist Church in Temple Hills, Md., said she still misses whom she called the love of her life.

“What I miss a lot is that Thomas knew when I needed to be hugged,” Morris said during an interview inside Kendall’s sanctuary. “He would just hug me and hug me. I miss that a lot. I’d put my arms out and he knew I needed a hug and he supplied them. Man, do I ever miss that.”

The Morrises, like most Americans, were shocked at the tragic events of Sept. 11 though they never anticipated being embroiled in the terrorist attacks. “I never would have imagined it could have happened to us,” she told Baptist Press. “At times I’ve felt like Esther, for such a time as this. I know that God uses ordinary people in extraordinary times, I just didn’t know that he was going to use me.”

For Morris, the death of her husband has been a time of reflection on her life. A private person, she has shunned secular media with the exception of several highly evangelical comments that appeared in The New York Times.

“Thomas was a neat guy, a really neat guy,” she said. “He was a straight-up guy. He didn’t have to figure out what it means to be the man,” she said.

Morris and her family are currently involved in litigation surrounding the events of her husband’s death and therefore declined to comment on certain aspects of his passing.

However, in the weeks and months following her husband’s death, Morris has learned that she has a story to share. A story about how God can use ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

Morris was born in Greenwood, Ind., the only black family in an all-white neighborhood. She was one of eight children born into a family headed by a strict Baptist deacon daddy.

Her parents were strict disciplinarians and Sundays during the 1950s and ’60s were devoted to church. Every Sunday morning, all eight children were required to quote Bible verses from memory.

“They wouldn’t let us do ‘Jesus wept,'” she said. “We kids would scurry around the house looking for the shortest Scripture.

“I thank the Lord for the experience,” she said. “But it was kind of hard.”

Morris also remembered how one kid in junior high school called her names every day. “You know, I felt like I was lesser of a person in high school.”

Morris was still living in Indiana when a friend suggested she meet her brother. At the time, she was a single mother with two young children.

“My friend’s dad died and I went to their home to pay condolences. There was this guy sitting there in the living room and I said, ‘Oh my, we’re getting married.'”

The man was Thomas Morris, who worked for the U.S. Postal Service in Washington.

“It was love at first sight,” Morris recalled. “Another girl saw him too and I told her, ‘Hands off. He’s mine.'”

On May 1, 1990, 90 days later, Thomas and Mary were married. Their instant family included Mary’s two children and Thomas’ son from a previous marriage.

Following their marriage, the new family packed up and moved to Washington where Thomas served 17 years with the postal service.

Morris remembers the day she thought she got saved like it was yesterday. She was 13 years old and it was around Easter. The entire family sat on the same row of her traditional black Baptist church. When the pastor issued the call for people to come forward and join the church, Morris walked to the front of the sanctuary with her sister.

“He asked us a few questions and one of the deacons recommended that the statement be accepted and I would be baptized,” she said. “The congregation gave three amen’s and I was baptized. Was my heart changed? No. I had joined the church. I was baptized and I thought I was saved.”

From that day until adulthood, Morris said her life became a series of bad decisions. “It’s like the story of Hans Brinker, the little Dutch boy,” she said. “That was my life.

“I thought the Bible was the don’t do list,” she said. “And everything I wanted to do was on the don’t do list. My life was a mess and I was still going to church every Sunday.”

In her 20s, Morris had one child out of wedlock, got married, had another child and got divorced.

After her marriage to Morris, she said the Lord began letting her know that something was wrong with her spiritual relationship.

“I couldn’t sleep because I thought I would die and go to hell,” she said. “One day I was listening to Family Radio 107.9 and they were reading the Bible. They read the same verses I learned to read in my daddy’s house.

“I couldn’t quarrel with the Lord,” she recalled. “He knew my heart.”

Morris said that she finally gave her heart totally to the Lord at Kendall Baptist Church, where she was later baptized.

“I came to understand that baptism was only an outward sign of an inward change,” she said. “Today I know that I am sealed.”

While Morris said she doesn’t harbor hate in her heart toward those who attacked the United States last September, she said Scripture narrows down who believers are to embrace.

“There are those who do the will of the Father and there are those denominations who don’t do the will of the Father,” she said. “We aren’t supposed to have fellowship with those who don’t do the will of the Father.”

Morris said Christians should be careful whom they associate with in worship.

“I look at people funny who say we are all brothers,” she said. “No, we are not. We are all God’s creation but only those who embrace Jesus Christ as Savior are brothers. That’s what my Bible tells me.”

With her marriage of 11 years to Thomas cut short by the anthrax attack, Morris reflected, “God said that he will not load us up with too much. He has allowed this to happen so I believe he will allow me to bear it.”

The question Morris faced, however, was how to bear the loss.

“Jesus said to cast our cares on him because he cares for us,” she said. “He has so many promises that get me through. I miss my husband terribly … terribly. But God said that I can bear it, so I can.”

Over the past several months Morris said she has discovered that God’s grace is sufficient and there truly is a balm in Gilead.

As for those hugs, Morris said she gets them from another place.

“The Lord hugs me these days,” she said. “When I read the Bible it’s like he’s got his arms all around me.”

    About the Author

  • Todd Starnes