University Heights United Methodist Church

4002 Otterbein Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46227 Church Office: (317) 787-5347

Children's Center: (317) 787-5865 † Church Fax: (317) 787-7696

Midweek Devotional


For a week Washington, D.C., meteorologist kept their eye on Hurricane Isabel as she moved in a northwesterly direction from the Southern Atlantic. Boasting winds near 150 miles per hour, Isabel wreaked havoc as it moved toward our nation’s capital.

On September 18, 2003, all federal government offices were closed with most of Congress leaving town. Museums and monuments were shut down as Washington’s streets, usually crowded with tourists, stood abandoned. Even the Metro subway was closed.

As Hurricane Isabel bore down on Washington, D.C., Thursday evening, heavy rains and winds in excess of 50 miles per hour pelted the city. Trees were toppled, and 700,000 people were left without power.

So severe was the storm that for the first time, in nearby Arlington National Cemetery, the soldiers who guard the Tomb of the Unknowns (a memorial to unidentified fallen soldiers) were given permission to abandon their posts and seek shelter. Since a sentry was first posted there in 1930, the tomb has been guarded continuously with a half-dozen soldiers taking turns standing guard on 24-hour shifts.

But the guards at the Tomb of the Unknowns remained resolute in their determination to stay at their post. When reminded of the opportunity to seek shelter, Sgt. Christopher Holmes responded, “They told us that. But that’s not what’s going to happen. That’s not what’s going to happen. It’s just considered to be the greatest honor to go out there and guard. It’s not only the unknowns. Its’s a symbol that represents everyone who fought and died for our country.” The soldier charged with standing vigil overnight added, “That’s never an option for us. It went in one ear and right out the other.”

Staff Sgt. Alfred Lanier, who was also on duty with Holmes Thursday night, explained, “Once you become a badge holder, it’s like you’ll do whatever you have to do to guard the unknowns. For one, it’s my job. And for two, that’s just how much respect I myself have for the unknowns. That’s just something we cherish.”

During the height of the storm, Sergeant of the Guard Fredrick Geary took it upon himself to march for 5 ½ hours in front of the tomb against heavy rain and 60-mph wind gusts. The wind was so strong it felled at least 24 trees on cemetery grounds and three headstones were crushed.  

      The Joy Continues,

      Rev. C. Archibald Hawkins