September 11 is a national day of mourning for all that we lost on 9/11/01. It is a day to mourn for the lost innocence of a 9/10 world, a world without a war which has cost the lives of thousands of our best and brightest, and most patriotic men and women of the armed forces. And though many of us remember it every day of our lives, it is particularly a day to remember the almost 3,000 people killed in the jihadist terrorist attacks. It is a day to mourn for the lost potential for the future that was contained in each one of them – from the youngest, Christine Lee Hanson, 2 ½ years old, to the oldest, 85 year old Robert Grant Norton.
This year, the White House and others have transformed September 11 into a National Day of Service and Remembrance. According to the website for the 9/11 Day of Service, we are intended to “set aside a little time this 9/11 to plan or perform at least one good deed that helps someone else who may need assistance, or to support a cause that you care about.” Since we have received this command from on high, it seems only fitting to write about an extraordinary young woman whose life was dedicated to service both to her country and to those described by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew as “the least of these.” Angela M. Houtz (Angie) was killed when the jihadists plunged American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon.
During work hours, Angie was an extremely important civilian employee for the U.S. Navy at the Pentagon. But on Thursday nights, she could be found barreling through the streets of Northwest Washington, DC in a Salvation Army “canteen” truck, giving a hot meal to the homeless men and women sleeping on the steam grates. Just a few months before she was killed, Angie said, “I think God really wants to use us to be involved in different ministries, to be involved in our workplaces. He has a plan for us and we are his Ambassadors. He could just go out and transform lives by Himself if he wanted to, but there is a reason why he wants us to be involved and to get out there, and I think we need to pay attention to his calling and see where he wants to use us to impact our community.” Angie paid attention.
Salutatorian of her graduating class at Maurice J. McDonough High School in Pomfret, Maryland in 1992, Angie received a full scholarship in the humanities program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). She then interned with the Office of Naval Intelligence in Suitland, Maryland, and was offered a permanent position when she graduated. According to the Pentagon Memorial Fund website, Angie “was recommended for a position in the Pentagon, working for the Chief of Naval Operations Intelligence Plot, where she also served as the Naval Intelligence Watch Officer in the Navy Command Center. Following this assignment, she returned to work at Suitland and the Office of Naval Intelligence, working there until her most recent appointment as Senior Analyst at the Pentagon.” Angie came back to the Pentagon in October 2000, after the bombing of the U.S. S. Cole to become the senior day analyst at the Chief of Naval Operations Intelligence Plot (CNO-IP). It was the third-ranking job in the 28-person unit. At 27, Angie was the youngest person to have ever held the position.
Angie, pretty, friendly, with wavy dark hair and sparkling brown eyes, had both an infectious smile and an infectious faith that affected all who knew her. She said of her own faith journey that it totally changed when began attending Church of the Apostles in Fairfax, Virginia. She glowed when she said one Sunday that she now understood that God is “very personal and wants to have a relationship with us.” Not long after that, Angie took the helm of Church of the Apostles’ ministry to the homeless in DC, known as The Grate Patrol.
As the leader of the Grate Patrol, Angie recruited volunteers for the shopping and for cooking a hot evening meal for about 100 homeless people sleeping on the steam grates of Washington. Other volunteers took charge of cooking four large electric roaster ovens full of soup, stew, or chili, making sandwiches, and sometimes baking special treats of cookies and brownies from people in the parish. But when it came to serving the food, she was always there herself, with recruits in tow. She rarely missed a Thursday night’s patrol of the grates that took her from Constitution Avenue to Lafayette Park to the E Street Expressway at Virginia Avenue to right outside the Watergate Hotel, and others in between. Angie would check up on Jacob’s sore leg; she would laugh with James; she made sure that Willie had a blanket; she prayed with Michael; and she was always a gentle reminder of God’s love for those forgotten by most of the high-powered world of Washington.
On the mirror of her bedroom dresser, Angie kept a Bible verse that reflected the significance of her highest level security work at the Pentagon, monitoring the ongoing geopolitical and military movements that could be a threat to American forces . In “The Last Watch,” a January 20, 2002 tribute to the victims at the Pentagon in The Washington Post, Richard Leiby describes the verse as “a quotation from an Old Testament leader who set about rebuilding a great wall to protect Jerusalem, who put watchers on his wall, and refused to leave it.” Leiby says that Rear Admiral Richard Porterfield, the director of Naval Intelligence, who called Angie and her team members who were killed “the Magnificent Seven”, told Angie’s parents that the verse would appear on a memorial at the National Maritime Intelligence Center in Suitland. The verse was Nehemiah 6: 3, “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down.”
Angie Houtz was carrying on two great projects, and although the worlds of Pentagon Naval Intelligence and the Grate Patrol naturally did not intersect, they did in the life and service of a young woman whose highest calling was doing the will of God that she loved – humbly sharing that love and performing acts of caring service for all who needed her.