The Rev. Eddie Stephens of Gainesville, father of a Gainesville woman killed in the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, died Saturday after a brief illness. He was 88.
Edna Stephens, Stephens’ daughter, was in the Pentagon when a hijacked jetliner tore into the Defense Department headquarters at 9:37 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001. The suicide terrorist attack killed 184 at the northern Virginia complex.
Airliners added to the toll in New York City, bringing down the World Trade Center towers, and in southern Pennsylvania, where United Airlines Flight 93 plunged into a field as passengers fought their killers. In all, 2,973 died.
Edna Stephens was named after her father and "wasn’t much in the house" as a child, Eddie Stephens told The Times in September 2006, just before the fifth anniversary of the attacks. His daughter used to help him fixing up old cars, a hobby the man kept up even after her death.
"I think about her a lot. And how she had to go," he said at the time. "The way she had to go, that’s what I don’t understand."
The Lord "he gives and he takes away," the retired pastor said.
Edna Lee Stephens is buried at Cross Plains Baptist Church, and her father will be laid to rest there Wednesday after a 1 p.m. funeral service at Antioch Baptist Church.
Eddie Stephens was 12th of 16 children and answered the call to preach at age 16. A member of Antioch Baptist Church, he had pastored churches in Lumpkin County, Commerce, Homer, Ila, Carnesville, Royston and Lavonia. He also preached across the South and Midwest.
Eddie Stephens served in World War II as a U.S. Army combat medic in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater. On Aug. 6, 1945, he was an eyewitness to the atomic bomb blast that destroyed Hiroshima.
After the war, he was awarded the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Medal for Bravery with two bronze stars, the Philippine Liberation Medal with one bronze star, the Good Conduct Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.
Eddie Stephens is survived by eight children, two sisters, one brother and other family members.
The family will receive friends from 7 to 9 tonight at Memorial Park Funeral Home.