By Donna Miles
WASHINGTON, Aug. 16, 2006 – At the exact site of the most painful event in the Pentagon's history -- the Sept. 11, 2001, attack that claimed 184 lives here -- a couple brought together through the tragedy recently became the first to exchange wedding vows in the Pentagon Memorial Chapel. "It's like the phoenix rising from the ashes," said Army Lieutenant Colonel Nora Faust after her Aug. 3 wedding to Heinz Linderman in the chapel that memorializes victims of the attack. "It really meant a lot to us to celebrate something so positive that came from something so terrible."
Faust, a reservist based in New Jersey was called to duty at the Pentagon shortly after Sept. 11. There, she met Linderman, a civilian computer technician in the Pentagon flight medicine clinic, an office that was deeply involved in the Sept. 11 events, with many members acting as first responders. Linderman loved Faust's straightforwardness and strength of character, adding that it didn't hurt that she was so "easy on the eyes." Faust was struck by Linderman's outlook on life and sense of humor.
Nearly five years after the two met, after Faust moved to an assignment in Heidelberg, Germany, she and Linderman decided to tie the knot. When they started looking for the proper setting for their ceremony, no place seemed more appropriate than the building where they met. And within that building, they couldn't think of a better place than the Pentagon Memorial Chapel. "It seemed like such a fitting place because it's what brought us together after so much tragedy," Faust said.
Retired Army Chaplain Bruce Burslie agreed and quickly offered his services to officiate for Linderman, his longtime parishioner, and his bride. "What better place to have a wedding than a place that signifies commitment and sacrifice, than the place where so many committed people sacrificed their lives?" Burslie said.
So a group of about 40 friends and family members gathered with Faust and Linderman as they exchanged wedding vows Aug. 3. Faust, wearing a white gown with slight touches of green trim and carrying a pastel-colored bouquet, recalls a few tears in her eyes, as well as her new husband's and their guests, as Burslie conducted the ceremony.
At one point, a group touring the Pentagon peeked in to the proceedings. "They were probably pretty surprised and wondering what was going on," Faust said with a chuckle. Of those at the ceremony, many with very personal ties to the Sept. 11 events, perhaps none found the celebration as meaningful as Burslie's wife, Yolanda. A 17-year Pentagon employee, she was working in the Army Resource Management Office and lost 34 coworkers during the attack.
She recalled arriving at the Pentagon after an early-morning doctor's appointment Sept. 11. As she parked her car, her eyes caught a glimpse of a low-flying plane approaching the building; then she watched in disbelief as it exploded into a ball of fire. Yolanda visits the Pentagon Memorial Chapel two or three times a week to find comfort and peace as she remembers her lost coworkers. Seeing a joyful event at the site that brought such despair proved to be a healing event for Yolanda and other guests at the wedding. "It was a beautiful wedding and a moment of happiness for everyone involved," she said. "I feel happy for them and that they found happiness in each other."