When on Sept. 11, a phone call told us a plane had crashed into the
Pentagon, half a mile away from Calvary United Methodist Church, our first
concern was the safety of the children in our preschool.
Was it safer for parents to come get their kids, or better to stay in place?
After listening to the radio and calling police, we found they’d asked people
not to try to get to the site to help. Later, as people came streaming up 23rd
Street trying to get around blocked roads to exit the area, we offered water,
phone service and a quiet place to think or pray. People were desperate to get
in touch with relatives, and parents were calling about their kids.
By the next day, it became clear that our church members in the Pentagon were
safe, so we began collecting food to give to the American Red Cross. As the
scope and number of deaths became known, we began planning with other churches
on our street for a prayer service later that week.
In a sober evening service, we prayed and sang about confidence in God. We
opened our sanctuary every day at noon for people to come and pray. People came
for the next two to three weeks — some to pray for the families of friends who
died, some to give thanks for being alive, some to pray for our government and
nation and some just to say thanks for a safe place amid a national disaster.
Most amazing was the response from outside Virginia. As news spread through
churches that we were close to the Pentagon, cards and letters of support came
in from all over the nation — including a church near the site of the Oklahoma
City bombing. It was overwhelming to be recipients of so much love for victims’
families and gratitude for emergency responders at the Pentagon.