Maurie Campbell, who lives in Kalona, was an Army Reserve chaplain who was mobilized after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and ended up spending two and a half years at the Pentagon helping people …
Maurie Campbell, who lives in Kalona, was an Army Reserve chaplain who was mobilized after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and ended up spending two and a half years at the Pentagon helping people in the aftermath of the attacks.
Campbell graduated from the University of Iowa ROTC program and was commissioned in military intelligence. He served in military intelligence in Vietnam. After getting out of active service, Campbell went into the ministry and got a postcard in the mail saying the Army was looking for chaplains. He served as a local unit chaplain, doing worship services and counseling, and spent time in active duty during the first gulf war and in Bosnia.
Campbell was serving as a pastor in a church in southern Colorado in September 2001 when one of his parishioners called and told him to turn on his TV. He said he knew immediately after seeing the terrorist attacks that he would end up going to Washington D.C., where his Army Reserves assignment was.
“When I got there the first office that I worked in was a tent and it was probably 75 yards from the hole in the side of the pentagon where the plane hit,” Campbell said. “By that time, it was a crime scene. The alphabet soup of federal investigation agencies — the FBI, the ATF, and all those — where involved in that. People were still going through and sifting through where the plane hit looking for remains. A lot of the ministry was not just to the Army people, but to people in those investigative agencies and other people that were there.”
Campbell said the destruction was “unbelievable to observe” and said he went into the building with people while they gathered things from their offices to lend them support.
“Mostly it was a matter of being with people, of listening to them and listening to their experience and listening to their shock and their grief and praying with them,” Campbell said. “It was important just to be with people and be supportive of them. That’s really mostly initially what I did.”
Prior to 9/11 there was not a chapel in the pentagon, but a chapel was built in the place where the plane had hit. The pentagon chaplain was named Ralph Benson, who initiated a program to put stained-glass windows in the new chapel.
“Those people who were actually affected when the plane hit, the survivors, came in and they put the pieces of stained glass into the pattern that became the windows in the pentagon chapel,” Campbell said. “That was a wonderful thing to help people do something tangible with their grief.”
Throughout all his ministry at the Pentagon in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Campbell said the most important part was being with people, talking with them and praying with them, helping them recover from the horrors they had witnessed.
“Over time the focus became less on the immediate grief and more on the long-term grief that went on,” he said. “I processed things with my fellow chaplains who were there, as well. We did a lot of talking among ourselves to share stories and give each other support. That was one way to recharge the spiritual batteries.”