Pentagon tragedy brings love to woman and her man in uniform

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:16

    Warwick-From tragedy, sometimes, comes joy. Tomorrow will be a joyous day for one young woman from Warwick and her fiancé, who met amidst the rubble of the Pentagon just after the tragedy of September 11. Tomorrow they will be married here in Warwick, in St. Stephen's Church, where she grew up. Their story is a testament to how love can conquer all obstacles and how that emotion can bring people together and keep them together no matter what adversity they face. Amy Spielhagen was born and bred in Warwick. When she was just 12, her parents, Jerry and Fran, she and her younger brother, Jeremy, took a seven-week trip to Europe. As she was writing in her journal, she looked to her mother and said, "I'm going to travel. I'm going to do something that takes me to faraway places." And she did just that. After graduating first in her class from Burke Catholic High School in Goshen, Spielhagen headed to Georgetown University in Washington D.C. and entered its School of Foreign Service, which is geared toward international relations. After graduating in 1998, she went to work for the Department of Defense at the Pentagon as a civilian worker. Air Force Captain Briggs Warner grew up in North Carolina. He graduated from the University of North Carolina Charlotte, as part of the ROTC program. He joined the Air Force with hopes of flying planes. Neither Amy Spielhagen nor then-Air Force Captain Warner was in the Pentagon on September 11 when terrorists slammed a commercial aircraft into the building. Spielhagen was in Egypt on a business trip, while Warner, who was not stationed at the Pentagon, was on vacation in Australia. The two had never met. When they received clearance to enter the country again, both were at the Pentagon to work, 12-hour swing shifts, six days a week. About a month later, Captain Warner came to Spielhagen's office on business. Her friend and co-worker, Megan Harris, was busy and referred the captain to Spielhagen. "I'm a sucker for the uniform anyway," said Spielhagen. "We both thought he was cute, but we were so consumed with our work. It was such a chaotic time. All we did was sleep and work." For his part, Warner liked her brown eyes and dark hair. He later told her that although he was still pretty wired from working his 12-hour shift, he went to bed that night thinking about asking her out. There was only one problem n Spielhagen had a personal policy about not dating men with whom she worked. Just six months later, that policy was out the window. The two would see each other in the office. He even emailed her and left phone messages. But she didn't realize who he was. She knew him from the name on his uniform n Warner. He left messages from Briggs. She figured it out eventually. It wasn't until the last night he was assigned to the Pentagon in May, 2002, that he switched shifts with someone just to run into her. But she was not on duty that night. He tracked her down through her office and a week later they had their first date. "I knew right away that he was the man I would marry," Spielhagen said. "We hit it off from the beginning." Her parents are pretty fond of their soon-to-be son-in-law too. "He came up here to ask for our blessing before he even proposed to her," said her dad, Jerry. That was in August, 2003. Tomorrow, they will be married. Captain Warner became Major Warner last year. And, ironically, since 2001, Spielhagen's career has taken off. She continues her education at Georgetown, about one year away from her master's in United States National Security Policy. Warner, too, is working toward his graduate degree. She will remain in northern Virginia and work in D.C. while her new husband is stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Norfolk. They will commute for two plus hours on weekends to be with each other after returning from a honeymoon in Australia. And Spielhagen has no qualms about that situation. Given the way their relationship started, they have probably overcome more obstacles than most couples encounter in their entire marriage. But they are not thinking about that now. Tomorrow is a beginning for them. Brought together by tragedy, Spielhagen, Warner and their families will celebrate tomorrow with great joy.