'OK, let's roll': Columbus resident recalls son Todd Beamer's Flight 93

KEVIN CORVO
kcorvo@thisweeknews.com
Todd Beamer's name is among those on the walls at First Responders Park in Hilliard, honoring and memorializing the 2,977 people killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

David Beamer can find blessings in places where they aren’t readily apparent.

His only son, Todd Beamer, was among the 2,977 people killed Sept. 11, 2001, when 19 terrorists hijacked four airlines, crashing two into the World Trade Center towers, one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the fourth into a barren field about 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

Todd Beamer was among the passengers on the fourth airline -- United Airlines Flight 93 en route from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco.

The 32-year-old father of two sons -- and whose wife, Lisa, was pregnant with their third child -- was among the four passengers who organized other passengers to retake the plane from the hijackers, ultimately causing its crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, about 20 minutes away from the its likely intended target, believed to be the U.S. Capitol or the White House.

Todd Beamer’s name is on the granite wall at Hilliard’s First Responders Park, where the city will stage its annual memorial at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11. But this year’s ceremony is closed to the general public because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, said Andrea Litchfield, a spokeswoman for the Hilliard Division of Police.

The ceremony will be livestreamed on the police department’s Facebook page instead.

“This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, (tonight’s) ceremony will be abbreviated and without the traditional public audience,” Litchfield said.

“The ceremony will include the placing of the memorial wreath by the Hilliard Division of Police and Norwich Township Fire Department Honor Guard and the playing of “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes by Norwich Township firefighter Mike Reiterman,” Litchfield said.

As for those not-so-apparent blessings, David Beamer, who lives in Columbus near Dublin, recalled the events surrounding 9/11.

“There were some blessings that morning,” he said.

He said he considers one to be that the departure of Flight 93 had been delayed.

Those extra minutes provided the time for the passengers to learn about the unfolding terrorists attacks and take their heroic action, Beamer said.

“It was a blessing they had the opportunity to know that (and) the time to take their course of action.”

If the passengers hadn’t been afforded that extra time, “the Capitol dome would still be under repair,” said Beamer, who said he believes the U.S. Capitol was the intended target.

Even though the hijackers indicated the airline was returning to Newark, once the passengers learned the World Trade Center towers and Pentagon both been had struck, “they knew it wasn’t a normal hijacking,” Beamer said.

Another blessing that day, he said, is that the band of passengers on Flight 93 “did the right thing at the right time.”

Todd Beamer, using the built-in wireless telephones that were on airlines 19 years ago, placed a credit-card call that eventually was routed to a GTE Airfone supervisor named Lisa Jefferson.

Jefferson recounted the call in a 2006 book she co-authored: "Hello, My Name is Mrs. Jefferson, I Understand Your Plane is Being Hijacked?"

It was during this call that the world learned -- and heard -- how Beamer and his fellow passengers overtook Flight 93 from the four hijackers.

In the call, Beamer tells Jefferson the passengers plan to “jump on” the hijackers so as not to allow the airline to be crashed into another target, asks Jefferson to tell his wife and children he loves them and recites the Lord’s Prayer with Jefferson.

The final words of Beamer on the recording were, “Are you Ready? OK, let’s roll.”

The last two words were appropriated by President George W. Bush -- whom David and Peggy Beamer met on several occasions -- when speaking later about the heroism of the passengers of Flight 93, and is also the title of a book that Lisa Beamer co-authored, “Let’s Roll: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage.”

David Beamer was in California on a business trip on 9/11.

Because of the three-hour time difference, the attacks were over before David’s wife, Peggy, after speaking with Lisa, reached him to tell him that Todd had been on Flight 93.

“I still thought Todd was in Italy (on the morning of 9/11),” David Beamer said.

Todd and Lisa Beamer had visited Italy, a travel gift for his sales volume for the Oracle Corp., but arrived home Sept. 10, David Beamer said.

Todd, in an effort to spend as much time as possible with his family, opted to fly to and back from California on the same day rather than take a late flight Sept. 10 for a Sept. 11 meeting with clients in California, David Beamer said.

“(My company) said we will charter a plane. But of course, no planes were flying,” David Beamer said about his effort to get back home Sept. 11.

Beamer and a colleague drove cross-country, nonstop, for the family funeral Sept. 15.

The last time David Beamer saw Todd was at the 60th wedding-anniversary party for David’s parents Aug. 26, 2001.

“We never parted without a hug. There are many wonderful memories, (and) we have lots of conversations (about Todd)” with his now-adult children, David Beamer said, as well as with Todd’s two sisters, Melissa and Michele.

Todd Beamer’s sons, David and Andrew, were 3 years and 18 months old, respectively, on 9/11; the daughter he never met, Morgan, was born in January 2002.

Morgan, which is Todd’s middle name, is a freshman at Wheaton College, a Christian university where Todd Beamer had graduated in 1991 and where he had met his wife, Lisa.

Todd Beamer has been memorized in numerous places, including a park bearing his name in Fresno, California -- Todd played baseball at Fresno State University before a car accident ended his professional aspirations. A student center at Wheaton College, where he transferred to after attending Fresno State, is named in his memory and honor.

Todd Beamer graduated from a high school near Fresno, where his family was living at the time.

David Beamer, 78, graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from the Ohio State University and was part of the Apollo 11 mission at NASA, which placed Neil Armstrong on the moon July 20, 1969.

David and Peggy met at Sebring High School near Alliance.

They have been to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City, the memorial at the Pentagon and to the Flight 93 National Memorial, operated by the National Park Service, in Stonycreek Township, two miles north of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

“They have done an excellent job there and have a terrific staff,” Beamer said about the Flight 93 memorial. “I encourage every American to visit the memorials.”

But the Beamers never have been to the memorial on Sept. 11.

“That’s always just a day for us to ourselves,” David Beamer said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo

Todd Beamer