'People need compassion': Man marks 9/11 with inspiring message

For John Wesley, no day has a greater significance than Sept. 11, 2001. His reasons are deeply personal, powerful and inspiring.


For John Wesley, no day has a greater significance than Sept. 11, 2001. His reasons are deeply personal, powerful and inspiring.

Images of his fiancée are indelibly etched in Wesley's mind, heart and soul. Sarah Clark died when terrorists hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 and deliberately crashed into the Pentagon.

"She saw the same old world each day with new eyes, and her compassion never blinks," Wesley said.

Authorities allowed Wesley to watch the boarding gate video. He saw two of the hijackers looking at a child playing with an Elmo toy, seniors being pushed onboard in wheelchairs and students securing their backpacks.

"For me, how could you look at that and still do what was on your mind?" Wesley said.

Wesley decided at the last minute not to go on the trip with Clark because it was his first day on the job as an actor on HBO'S "The Wire."

"Growing up in Mississippi, I just believe I would have fought," Wesley said.

Every year on the 9/11 anniversary, Wesley visits the Pentagon crash site. He will be there this year, as well. In 2018, former Vice President Mike Pence mentioned Clark in his remarks. Wesley said her positive influence has made him a better man. He said she helped lead him back to his faith.

"People need help. People need compassion. And I wanted people to know that I had no malice, that I never asked God why. I just thanked him for the time that I had with her and all the things that happened with her," Wesley said.

Clark taught sixth grade at Backus Middle School in Washington, D.C. She was on Flight 77 to chaperone students to an ecology conference sponsored by National Geographic.

Days before the flight, Wesley and Clark decided to bump up their wedding date to December. They picked a place to hold their wedding reception and shopped for wedding bands.

Wesley had the grim task of identifying Clark's remains.

"I was looking for this ring because this is the ring she would have had on," Wesley said.

Wesley said that over the years, he has focused on writing music and books inspired by Clark.

"If we are going to stop this hatred, we are going to have to start with the children," Wesley said. "That's the real lesson, and that will be our saving grace if we learn to love each other."

Wesley has since found a new love, which he said has helped him emotionally. His work in the Baltimore City Office of Civil Rights is his passion.

"It seems I am where I'm supposed to be," Wesley said.

Wesley has advice for anyone who has suddenly lost a loved one, saying life is short, to honor them by doing a simple act of kindness and use that depth of pain to lift others up.