In the aftermath of World War I, British clergy searched the rubble of destroyed churches for fragments of stained glass windows, and painstakingly repaired many. That search inspired T.S. Eliot to write that after the war, mankind knew only “a heap of broken images,” in the 1922 poem “The Waste Land.”
Over the last month, survivors of the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon assembled stained glass windows as a memorial to their friends and coworkers lost in the attack. But where Eliot saw “broken images” in stained glass, Pentagon chaplain Col. Ralph Benson sees not a reminder of tragedy, but a testament to the people affected by it.
“You see something unique in this building and in this place, because it is completely reconstructed,” Benson said last Thursday, Sept. 11. “And so we see before us the images, the anchor of our faith.”
Pentagon staff and national leaders gathered last Thursday morning to dedicate four stained glass windows in the Pentagon chapel. Each window was designed by an artist from Fredericksburg, Texas. and constructed by Pentagon staff members. The windows honor the groups most directly affected by the attack: the Navy; the Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army; the Office of the Army G1; the Office of Manpower and Reserve Affairs; the Defense Intelligence Agency; and American Airlines Flight 77.
Located in the rebuilt wing of the Pentagon, the chapel sits almost exactly at the plane’s point of impact on the first floor. In her prayer of invocation at the dedication service, Maj. Gen. Lorraine Potter, the Air Force chief of chaplains hoped memorial services could help people move beyond “fear, hatred, anger and ignorance” and remember the people who lost their lives because of that hatred.
“In reality, a group of individuals dedicated these windows a long time ago,” said Benson.
<b>SPEAKING AT</b> the dedication service, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the Sept. 11 attacks obligated the country’s leaders and military to defend freedom.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Speaker of the House of Representatives, recalled where he was when the plane hit the Pentagon. Standing in the Capitol, Hastert was talking about the World Trade Center attack on the phone with Vice President Dick Cheney when he saw smoke rising from the direction of the Pentagon.
“At that point, the world changed,” said Hastert. “At the end of the day, many of us in this room stood and said we would not let this happen again.”
All the flags over the Capital were removed after Sept. 11, and on Thursday morning, Hastert presented Rumsfeld with one of the flags that flew over the Capitol building on Sept. 11, 2001.
“We acknowledge darkness in this world,” said David Hicks in the prayer of dedication. The windows are dedicated, he said, “To the memory of those whose lives were taken from us on that morning two years ago. God you are a father to the orphan, husband to the widow, the God who is enough to supply every need.”