GLENN: I want to introduce you to a guy named Mason Wells. Mason was an Eagle Scout and awarded a trip to Paris, France. He served as a missionary over in -- in France.
He's now in the United States Naval Academy. But I'm not talking to him about those things. That's not what got our attention. What got our attention is Mason Wells is a guy that happened to be at the Boston bombing, the Paris terrorist attack, and was significantly injured in the Brussels attack.
I don't know if of anybody else -- I mean, besides people who might have been involved, were at all three locations. And I can't imagine what it must feel like and how many times you must say, why me? There's a new book out. Authored by Mason and a good friend of the program, Billy Hallowell, called left standing. And it's about his faith and what he's gone through. Mason, welcome to the program.
MASON: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me, Glenn.
GLENN: So, you know, we were talking about this. And, you know, it's one of the reasons why we wanted to have you on the phone and not here at the studio.
You have really bad luck. Tell me about -- tell me about being in three terrorist attacks.
MASON: Oh, I think I actually have pretty good luck, that I'm still here.
My first experience with terrorism would be the 2013 Boston Marathon. And my mom was running the marathon. Me and my dad were there to support her. And me and my dad were actually 50 meters away when the first bomb went off at the finish line. So being young at the time, that was scary for me.
Fast forward, now I'm now serving as an ecclesiastical missionary in France. And I was actually in the city of Rouen at the time of the Charlie Hebdo shootings and then in the city of Calais at the time of the Paris attacks. And to have those things go on, in, you know, the headquarters of our mission. A place that we always were on the streets that we proselyted. It left me with a lot of questions and a lot of reflections.
And I was ten feet away when the first bomb went off in the Brussels Airport. And that -- that one there put me in the hospital for a good two months.
GLENN: Yeah, we saw you -- we saw pictures of you all wrapped up. You had third degree burns to your face.
Your leg had some contraption, you know, trying to piece it back together. You were seriously injured there.
What was going through your head?
MASON: Well, when I was first injured in Brussels, I actually thought I had died when the first bomb went off. If you can imagine standing there for a moment and suddenly everything explodes. That's what happened to me. And I didn't know what was going on.
When I opened up my eyes, a couple seconds after the blast and looked around, there was no one standing but me. Everyone else had been knocked down to the floor. My friends had been knocked out. And I couldn't see more than a few feet in front of me.
So I made my way out of that airport, one step after another, on a ruptured Achilles' tendon, completely severed, with shrapnel in my legs, burns in my hands and my face. When I got out of the airport, my leg collapsed. I was kind of faced with, you know, these two roads in front of me. I could either embrace bitterness, embrace anger, embrace frustration, or make the best of what was going on and choose to have hope that I would come out of this all right, and I chose the latter. So I was faced with a very bleak future. You know, quite literally laying in a pool of my own blood on that sidewalk, but through the grace of God and through some mental decisions I made, I'm still here.
GLENN: So what was the -- what was the darkest moment here? Did you have a -- did you have a real struggle in faith, or were you -- were you prepared spiritually to meet some of these things?
MASON: Well, I think God prepares all of us for things in our life. I was blessed that day to be comforted when I was injured. But I did experience a lot of things afterwards, that led me to questions about my faith. And led me to develop a deeper faith. It prompts me to ask, you know, why do bad things happen to good people? Where is justice in all of this? What is God's plan for me? And those sorts of questions, those questions of the soul, they're things that take time.
And some of my reflections, of course, are in the book. But a lot of what I've learned about adversity and getting through trials came during my darkest moments. And there definitely were those dark moments.
GLENN: So what did you come to -- you know, what was the conclusion? You know, why is this happening? Why does God -- you know, where is God? I mean, you're serving a mission. You're blown up. And if I'm not mistaken, weren't you going home? Weren't you on your way home?
MASON: I was about four months away. So I was pretty close.
GLENN: So what was the conclusion? Why does God let this happen?
MASON: Well, you know, I've asked myself many times why God allows this to happen to me and why I'm alive when other people that were farther away from the bomb were killed. But ultimately, I've come to find out for myself that God allows adversity to happen in our lives, knowing that it will make us stronger. Knowing that we have a chance to come out on top, to allow these things to change for the better or for the worse. One thing I've learned for sure is that God is there when we're willing to -- to look for him and ask for his help. And ultimately, choosing to have hope amid the challenges in our lives, is the difference between finding peace and being bitter on what is going on. Honestly, I think just having a positive attitude. Making every single day a new day and realizing that every single chance is a chance for me to change. That mindset is what carried me through to my recovery. And I can positively say the line that divides success from failure is attitude, much more than it is outcome.
GLENN: So I just told the story yesterday about Corrie ten Boom who had a hard time forgiving and extending love to the people that, you know -- in particular, one of the guys who was a guard in the showers.
And she really, really had a hard time after the war forgiving him and loving him.
Did you -- did you have -- how do you feel about the people that, you know, have brought so much death and destruction?
MASON: You know, that's -- that's a deep question. That's a good question. Ultimately, I have forgiven people who did this to me. But it doesn't make what they did permissible. I actually prayed to God for them, that God would have mercy on them. But I know very well that God is a God of mercy and a God of justice. And I hope they can go on living in the next life, the best they can, given the guilt that they will undoubtedly bear. But, you know, that just being said, just because I forgive them, it doesn't make what they did okay. It's not permissible to do these things. It's the epitome of evil. What they did was evil. And I think that you can embrace forgiveness and also draw a hard line between good and bad.
STU: Mason, if you were to win an all expenses paid vacation, would anyone go with you?
GLENN: Besides Tom Hanks.
MASON: You know, as crazy as it sounds, I'm not scared to travel the world. I'm not scared to take public transportation.
GLENN: That wasn't the question. The question is: Is anyone else comfortable with you being around?
MASON: I mean, you know, if you were to give me an all expenses paid trip to Indonesia, I don't know if I would go there right now.
GLENN: All right.
MASON: You know, we can't let these things hold us back. We can't let these moments and these acts define our lives.
GLENN: Did you at any time have a moment where you're like, I'm -- I'm cursed or I'm -- there's something wrong, or what am I doing wrong? Or I'm afraid to go places? Was there any time that that started to happen to you?
MASON: Well, I have to admit, there was a time, I think it was about three days after I was injured in Brussels. But I was sitting in bed, and I just looked up and I just asked, you know, really, again? Like, I guess I didn't learn what I needed to the first time.
GLENN: Right. Okay. You're clearly telling me something. What is it?
MASON: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So, you know -- obviously, you know, I thought about -- I choose to focus less on the path as to why these things happen, and focus more on the future. Just making every single day a great day and making every single day a day I want it to be. Because you know I'm still here, and I'm grateful to be alive.
GLENN: Mason Wells. Author of Left Standing. Thank you so much. Best of luck.
MASON: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me, Glenn.
GLENN: Alert me, if you're ever on a flight and you see me -- alert me, I need to get off.
MASON: Will do. Will do.
GLENN: Thanks a lot, Mason. Merry Christmas.
STU: The book is Left Standing. The miraculous story of how Mason Wells' faith survived the Boston, Paris, and Brussels terror attacks.
It's an amazing story.
GLENN: What? Osama bin Laden survived all of them.
STU: Well, no, he didn't. He didn't actually.
GLENN: You're right.
STU: But, yeah. That's an amazing story. The Brussels -- there's been so many of these attacks by largely Islamic extremists around the world. But the 2016 Brussels bombings, 32 killed. Over 300 injured. You'll remember the -- the security camera tape. The guys walking through the airport.
STU: But, I mean, there's been so many of these, particularly in Europe. And it's amazing that this --
GLENN: 10 feet away from the bomb.
STU: Yeah. And ISIS did claim responsibility for that. Afterwards, to be able to muster the strength of will to -- to forgive ISIS, while obviously acknowledging what they do is not right. It's an amazing story. It's Left Standing.