Today I remember. I remember the events from fifteen years ago that took the lives of 2,977 individuals in the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, PA. And I remember that there were many heroes on that day.
One example comes from Lisa Beamer’s behind-the-scenes book Let’s Roll: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage. Flight 93 was 32,000 feet above Pittsburgh. It was a plane originally headed to San Francisco from Newark that had been taken over by terrorists targeting our nation’s Capitol.
Approximately 45-minutes into the flight men had stormed into the cockpit, cut the throats of the pilots, and then informed the seven crew-members and 33 passengers that the plane had been hijacked.
Lisa Beamer’s husband, Todd, was a passenger who made a phone call during the flight with an Airphone. The call reached a GTE operator in the Chicago area:1
Lisa Jefferson indicated to me that at several points during their 15-minute phone call, Todd put the phone down, moved around the plane to talk with other passengers, and then returned to their conversation. Lisa told me, “If I hadn’t known it was a real hijacking, I’d have thought it was a crank call, because Todd was so rational and methodical about what he was doing.”
She told me of Todd’s involvement in the counterattack and the message that Todd had asked her to convey to me. She recalled, “Todd asked me, ‘In case I don’t make it through this, would you please call my family and let them know how much I love them?’ I promised him that I would.
“He told me that he had two boys, David and Andrew, and said his wife was also expecting another baby in January.
“After that the plane took another dive down and began flying erratically. There was another outburst, and I could tell in Todd’s voice that he was feeling nervous but still calm. When the plane jolted, Todd shouted, ‘Oh, God!’
“Then he said, ‘Lisa!’ I had not given him my name, as I had introduced myself as Mrs. Jefferson.
“And I said, ‘Yes?’
“He said, ‘Oh, that’s my wife’s name.’
“And I said, ‘That’s my name too, Todd.’
“Then he asked me if he didn’t make it, would I keep that promise, and find his wife and children and let them know he loved his family very much. He even gave me his home phone number. When the plane was flying in an erratic fashion, he thought he had lost connection with me. He was hollering, ‘Lisa! Lisa!’
“I said, ‘I am still here; I am not going anywhere. I will be here as long as you will.’
“He seemed concerned about losing the connection and just wanted me to stay on the phone. I told him, ‘I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to be right here with you.’
“‘We’re going to do something…I don’t think we’re going to get out of this thing,’ Todd said. ‘I’m going to have to go out on faith.’ He told me they were talking about jumping the guy with the bomb.”
“Are you sure that’s what you want to do, Todd?” Lisa asked.
“It’s what we have to do,” Todd told her.
“He asked me to recite the Lord’s Prayer with him,” Lisa said, “and I did. We recited it together from the start to the finish:
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil:
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power,
and the glory, for ever. Amen.
At the conclusion of the prayer aboard Flight 93, Todd said, “Jesus, help me.”
“I knew that if Todd didn’t make it,” Lisa told me, “he was definitely going to the right place.”
Although I’d never before heard of Todd reciting the Lord’s Prayer in pressure situations, I wasn’t surprised to hear he had quoted it. Recently our pastor had taught a 12-week series of lessons on the Lord’s Prayer. Todd had known the prayer since childhood, but each line of it had become more special to him as he discovered how fraught with meaning it really was. At the close of the series, the pastor passed out Lord’s Prayer bookmarks…
Following the prayer, Todd recited the 23rd Psalm. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil… Other men apparently joined in with him or recited the psalm themselves. Interestingly, Psalm 23 wasn’t a mantra Todd recited often, but it was resident in his spirit because he had learned it as a child. When the crisis came, Todd was able to tap into a deep reservoir of faith that he’d been storing up for years.
Lisa Jefferson recalls, “After that, he had a sigh in his voice, and he took a deep breath. He was still holding the phone, but I could tell he had turned away from the phone and was talking to some else. He said, ‘Are you ready? Okay. Let’s roll!'”
United Flight 93 never did crash into the Capitol, nor the White House, not even Camp David. It had no real possibility of doing so with men like Todd Beamer (32), Mark Bingham (31), Todd Burnett (38), and Jeremy Glick (31) aboard.
Today I remember.