Voices from Arlington — Rev. Stephen Hassmer

Voices from Arlington — Rev. Stephen Hassmer

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.