They woke up that Tuesday morning as fathers, sons, husbands, businessmen. Within a week, the world knew them as heroes.
A nation that was looking for a reason to hope -- any reason -- found it in the days following the September 11 attacks. A story emerged, piece by piece, of heroism aboard United Airlines Flight 93, the only hijacked airliner that failed to strike a target.
Todd Beamer and at least three other passengers apparently overpowered three terrorists who had the Boeing 757 on a path to Washington, D.C. The plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania, killing all 44 people aboard.
In a 15-minute conversation with a GTE-Airfone operator, Todd calmly described the situation. The passengers were aware that hijacked planes had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, and Todd said some of them would attempt to regain control of the plane. The last thing the operator heard before she lost the connection was Todd saying, "Are you guys ready? Let's roll."
When she heard about the call, Lisa Beamer immediately recognized her husband's "Let's roll" command. "When I heard that part of the conversation," she says, "I knew that was Todd."
Todd Beamer, 32, talked for some 13 minutes with the GTE operator Tuesday morning, September 11, from hijacked Flight 93, that was supposed to have landed in San Francisco. It crashed, instead, into a rural area 60 miles from Pittsburgh.
As it headed toward Washington, D.C., even as we watched the World Trade Center's towers ablaze, several passengers on that flight were in contact with loved ones, through their cell phones. That's how they found out they were NOT probably aboard for a "routine" hijacking. The passengers, with knowledge that they probably weren't going to get off the plane alive, hatched a plan: they were going to rush one hijacker, who, he told everyone, had a bomb lashed to his chest.
Beamer told the operator, Lisa D. Robinson, what to say to his wife, and also said he'd be joined by other passengers, reportedly at least Jeremy Glick, 31; and Thomas Burnett Jr. 38; in the attack on the hijackers. Beamer, of Hightstown (NJ), recited Psalm 23 with Robinson ("...Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I shall fear no evil; for Thou are with me..."), and then left the phone off the hook, so Robinson could listen.
Thomas Burnett, on his cell phone, told his wife, "I know we're all going to die--there's three of us who are going to do something about it." Jeremy Glick, told his wife, "We can take them, we can take them," just before Beamer gave the order. She heard him say, just before 10AM, "Are you guys ready? Let's Roll!" just before some screaming, and then silence. Beamer leaves behind two sons, ages 3 and 1; and a pregnant wife.
Lisa Beamer, the widow, told the AP, "Some people live their whole lives, long lives, without having left anything behind. My sons will be told their whole lives that their father was a hero, that he saved lives. It's a great legacy for a father to leave his children."
Sources include Houston Chronicle, The Todd M. Beamer Foundation, The Warbird's Forum and Wheaton College.
For information on The Todd M. Beamer Foundation, visit its website at www.beamerfoundation.org/
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