Artist Paints Tribute to 9/11 Victims
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2005 Coming equipped with his paintbrushes, artist Keith Beihle arrived at the Pentagon on Sept. 9 to finish his tribute painting to the victims who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the building.
Artist Keith Beihle works on his tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The painting, which Beihle began in late July, features the likeness of all the 184 individuals who perished when terrorists slammed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon at 9:39 a.m. that day.
Beihle said the experience of completing the portrait in the Pentagon was both uplifting and emotional. "I've had so many people come by and tell me emotional stories about some of the people I'm painting. I had tears coming to my eyes and they were crying," he said.
Marcus Flagg was one of those who stopped by to see the artist as work. Flagg's father, retired Navy Rear Adm. Wilson "Bud" Flagg and mother, Darlene, were passengers aboard the doomed flight. Ironically, his father had been an American Airlines pilot for 31 years, Flagg said.
Marcus, like his father, is a Naval Academy graduate. He served for 10 years, flying F-14 fighter jets part of that time.
"I think the painting is a wonderful tribute, and I commend the artist for showing the initiative to do it," Flagg said. "It's fantastic."
Last year Beihle displayed some of his other works in the Pentagon. Those paintings incorporated peaceful symbols from various world religions, Beihle said. The idea was "to try to get people to understand all the different ways there are to see the same thing," he said.
The 2004 exhibit prompted David Minyard, the founder of the Eagle's Watch Foundation, to approach Beihle about doing a painting to honor those who died in the Pentagon on Sept. 11 and to generate funds for the foundation.
The foundation's purpose is to bring hope and encouragement to those who lost loved ones in the Pentagon attack, Minyard said. The foundation also helps maintain the America's Heroes Memorial inside the building. The memorial contains large black tablets etched with all of the names of those who were killed.
"Our plan is to make prints of the painting available for purchase to support the foundation's mission of providing hope in times of need to those defending freedom," Minyard said.
Beihle, 36 and a Florida native, has spent most of the past six years in Los Angeles. He's been drawing most of his life and went to art school straight out of high school. Like a lot of artists, he often supplements his income with handyman jobs, he said.
The Army recently commissioned Beihle to go to Iraq in October to paint portraits of American soldiers.
"It seems that lately I'm doing less-and-less handyman work, and a lot more painting," he said.