A Life-Saving Latte

Posted by on Aug 16, 2013 in Military Prayer | Comments Off on A Life-Saving Latte

Excerpt from: Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan

Chaplain, Maj. Gen. (Ret.), Charles C. Baldwin, former Chief of Chaplains, US Air Force

 “But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Exodus 9:16

“We’ve been bombed,” a guard hollered into the cafeteria where retired Major General Charles Baldwin, a longtime leader of chaplains, was sitting drinking a latte.

The announcement didn’t make sense to Baldwin.  He hadn’t heard an explosion, and after more than thirty years in the Air Force, Baldwin knew what a bomb sounded like.

Although he was  a General and a senior administrative leader, going to the Pentagon was a normal part of Baldwin’s daily routine.  Stationed at nearby Bolling Air Force Base, he came to the Pentagon that morning to attend his first senior staff meeting as the new deputy chief of chaplains for the Air Force.  He soon realized that nothing about September 11, 2001 would be routine.

“The meeting started at nine o’clock,” Baldwin said.  Led by the Secretary of the Air Force, the meeting took place in the basement of building eight.

“We were about twenty minutes into the daily briefing, when someone interrupted.  We turned our attention to the television and watched the second plane fly into the World Trade Center Tower,” Baldwin recalled.  Shocked, “we immediately adjourned.”

“I had a ten o’clock meeting on the other side of the Pentagon, but stopped to get a latte in the cafeteria,” Baldwin said.

“Shortly after I got my latte, a guard ordered an evacuation.” We immediately exited the building, ” Baldwin said.  “That’s when we saw the huge fireball on the other side of the Pentagon.”

Baldwin the realized that his ten o’clock meeting was located at the site of the black billowing smoke.  Had he proceeded to his meeting earlier and not stopped to get a latte, he would have been in the wedge when it was hit.

The Pentagon had turned from an office building into the burning aftermath of a battlefield.  Having served as a chaplain in Desert Storm a decade earlier and as a rescue pilot in Vietnam, Baldwin knew what to do.

“I went to the Sheraton hotel across from the Pentagon where they were bringing in the wounded. At that point I turned into a chaplain and went from couch to couch.”  Baldwin spoke works of comfort to the patients triaged in the hotel before going to local hospitals.  After about an hour, Baldwin decided to return to Ground Zero at the Pentagon.  But it wasn’t smoke or shock that drew him there.  He wanted to be with the people that were hurting the most.  His life’s purpose led him in that moment to step in and simple be ready to face the tragedy head on.

Prayer: Almighty God, you have given me life purpose and meaning.  May I embrace the service you desire for me.

Used by permission of AMG Publishers. All Rights Reserved.


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