The weekend of September 8, Angie Houtz celebrated her 27th birthday with her family, including her grandmother and mother, Julie Shontere.
“That was the last time I saw her,” recalls her mother.
Angie had just returned from a week on a Navy frigate.
"She flew in Friday, drove to Ocean City, and met us at the beach, plopped down on that bed, and had a big smile on her face," says her mother. "And she said, ‘You know Mom, I had a good time, and I know why people join the Navy.’ She said, ‘It was that wonderful,’ and she said 'if I wasn’t too old, I should think about that.'"
Days later, on Tuesday, September 11, Angie Houtz, a civilian analyst with the Office of Naval Intelligence, died in the terrorist plane attack on the Pentagon.
“Oh my gosh, this brings back so many memories,” says her mother looking at a picture board of Angie's life made by family and friends.
“I don’t think you’ll find a picture with Angie not smiling,” she says.
Angie was a big sister and a girl whose smile came quickly and easily. She smiled at her high school graduation and on college break at home with her stepfather.
She was a child who loved to read and go to school and who grew up to be a “shipmate” to co-workers at Naval Intelligence. The term, “shipmate,” Navy Commander David Radi says, is earned, not automatically given.
“It’s a bond that approaches a brother or sister and although Angie was a civilian, she was a shipmate to us," Mr. Radi says. "I was proud to call her that. The way she shined. I put her eventually in a position where we had never had a civilian. It was because the trust I had in her. But more importantly, the more senior people in the Navy had in her. She would stand a watch in the off hours in particular. She would be the eyes and ears of the Navy in our command center. And there could be no better forerunner for that in the civilian world of Naval Intelligence than Angela Houtz.”
“Her work," says her mother, Julie Shontere, "she valued and enjoyed and wouldn’t have traded it for anything, not anything, in the world.”
Angie Houtz was also deeply involved in the ministry work of the Church of the Apostles in Virginia. Her Christian faith was very important to her, as she explained in a church video.
“We really want to make a difference in the community and transform lives in the county, in the city, and I think it’s important we have a focus beyond ourselves and our own congregation,” Angie said in the video.
Angie organized the church program to feed the homeless. “She was one of these people if you met her for five minutes, five hours, or five days, she made quite an impression on you,” says her church's administrator Frank Gallo.
“I met her three weeks before September 11,” says Amy Moffitt. Ms. Moffitt was struggling with depression and loneliness as a newcomer to the Washington area. She met Angie only twice, but in that short time, she says Angie Houtz gave her back the hope she had lost along with a renewed purpose to life.
“She lived really vividly in everything. She was very present, she was very alive. Her work with the homeless, her work on the job. There was not a person she met who didn’t go, ‘Wow,’ that was awakened by her presence, because she was so awake, so alive, so there,” said Ms. Moffitt
Commander Radi says Angie was a mentor to many of the young Navy staff. “Although she was a mere 26, 27 years old, still, kind of a role model, because she had it together," he said. "Had it together not only at work, but also spiritual. Don’t tell me that doesn’t make a difference. Let me tell you who she was in charge of. These were brand new sailors. It’s almost stereotypical. These were kids right off the farm, or right out of the city, or right out of the small town, that were right out of boot camp. That had gotten a little bit of instruction in the field they went into in the Navy, and then were thrust into the big city of Washington, D.C. While we all tried to help, the bigger lessons that Angie taught them was how to live their lives.”
Peggy Posey Stone says her granddaughter died for her country, doing what she loved to do. “I am so proud of Angie, but I wish she was here,” she said.
The pictures are now the memories of Angie’s life.
“I thought it might be more than I could bear, but it triggered all those wonderful memories," says Angie's mother. "And looking at them now, whether it was fishing or dancing... Angie loved to dance, Angie loved music. Absolutely loved it. Her most recent hobby was taking jazz dance classes. And she would come down and demonstrate her latest moves and she would do it so you would laugh. Angie loved to make you laugh. It’s like one memory leads to another memory, leads to another memory, and they all make me smile.”
In memory of Angie Houtz, her college classmates and family have organized a scholarship fund in her name.