The American flag hangs over the side of the Pentagon during the 22nd 9/11 Pentagon Observance Ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2023. (DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Alexander Kubitza)
The American flag hangs over the side of the Pentagon during the 22nd 9/11 Pentagon Observance Ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2023. (DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Alexander Kubitza)

James Daniel Debeuneure was a father, husband, church-man and fifth grade teacher at Ketcham Elementary School in Washington, D.C. In addition to teaching, he devoted much of his time to students, educational programs, and working with the school safety patrol.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Debeuneure was part of group six of teachers and students from three District schools who were aboard American Airlines Flight 77 headed to California when shortly after takeoff from Dulles Airport terrorists hijacked and crashed the plane into the Pentagon.

Student Bernard Brown, and teacher Hilda Taylor from Leckie Elementary; Debeuneure and student Rodney Dickens, of Ketcham Elementary; and student Asia Cottom and teacher Sara Clark, from Backus Middle School all died in the mass tragedy that killed thousands that fateful day, when terrorists took over and crashed four different planes: two into the World Trade Center, one in the Pentagon, and the other in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Even though the event was 22 years ago this week, the memories from that tragic day are fresh in the mind of the Rev. Henry P. Davis, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Highland Park.

“The last sermon [Debeuneure] heard on that Sunday before that fateful day, was as he sat in the balcony of the First Baptist Church of Highland Park,” said Davis III, whose sermon was titled “Getting Your Room Ready.”

“There is a hole in the hearts of so many people. From a spiritual perspective, many people started to lean on their faith,” Davis said. “[September 11, 2001] was a wake-up call for many people and at the time churches were filled up as if the world was getting ready.”

Remembering Pentagon Victim: Angelene C. Carter 

Wife, mother, co-worker and friend Angelene C. Carter gave 26 of service to the government, with the last eight at the Pentagon, where she was a staff accountant for the Department of the Army.

Keeping her memory alive, husband Fred Carter refused to talk about his wife in the past tense after she died on Sept. 11. Instead, he talked about falling in love with a woman he met on the dance floor and how they enjoyed each other.

A member of the St. Paul Baptist Church of Capital Heights, Maryland, Carter was known for her patience and prudence, advocacy for teamwork, and, of utmost importance, a ministry of encouragement built around great subjects such as God’s sovereignty, power, compassion, and forgiveness. She was a member of the Adult Usher Board and various Bible study groups. According to her family, after a full day of regimentation, she would conclude the day with a personal Bible meditation and reflection period followed by prayer.

Browning Recalls Losing Parishioners on 9/11, Community Ministry 

The Rev. Grainger Browning, pastor of Ebenezer African Methodist Epicipal Church in Fort Washington, said he lost two of his members from the attack at the Pentagon.  Just the day before the attacks, one of the victims dedicated his life to Christ.

“The Sunday before 9/11 I extended the invitation for Christian discipleship and a man in uniform came down to give his life to Christ. His name was Jackson. He died on 9/11,” Browning said.

“Rev. [Jesse] Jackson and I went to the Pentagon two days and there were still embers from the explosion and you could still smell the smoke from the explosion. The families were so appreciative that we came and Rev. Jackson prayed for them.”

Browning also had to minister to his family and community right after the attacks.

“For those of us living in Washington, D.C. I remember rushing to my daughters school and I had to pray for so many children whose families worked at the Pentagon. It took on another perspective and the emotional toll.

Using the Past to Inform ‘Our Future

“The side of the Pentagon that was struck, I used to work in that space “ Minister Davis Worley of the Sandtowne Church of Christ in Baltimore. 

Worley, 60, a retired Marine Staff Sgt, is a husband and father of three. 

He said it is “hard” for generations today “ to identify with 9/11 because they didn’t see all of the destruction, the agony and the sorrow.”

“I passed the Pentagon that morning before the incident and we didn’t know that day if we would be called into action because I was still on active duty. I knew several people,” Worley explained. “My message today is never to forget the past,” he added. “Our past is really a teacher for our future.”

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the...

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