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Todd Beamer’s actions on 9/11 grounded in faith

Todd Beamer's mother Peggy reads an article about her son.

As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 was observed last week, the name Todd Beamer was referenced repeatedly. Beamer is the 32-year-old Christ-follower who led the charge on the cockpit of Flight 93 with a rallying cry of “Let’s roll!”

Having boarded the Boeing 757 aircraft in Newark for a business trip to San Francisco, Todd settled into his seat with a novel. As the plane took off, he had no idea how eerily appropriate the bookmark he’d chosen would be. Before leaving home and his expectant wife and two young sons, he had tucked the bookmark, an illustrated rendering of the Lord’s Prayer, in his book.

Less than an hour into the westbound flight, the plane made an unexpected sharp turn to the south. The reason soon became obvious: The pilot and co-pilot had been ambushed by al-Qaeda terrorists who took over the controls. The passengers looked on in horror.

As the plane flew over Pennsylvania, it became obvious that the hijackers were headed toward Washington, D.C. Todd used one of the airplane’s phones in an attempt to call his wife, Lisa. For some reason, his call was routed to customer service. Another Lisa, a GTE supervisor by the name of Lisa Jefferson, answered.

Todd conveyed the tragic events playing out on the plane. Sensing the fatal outcome that awaited, Todd proceeded to ask her to convey his love to his wife and boys. He then asked her to pray the Lord’s Prayer with him. At the conclusion to the spontaneous prayer, Lisa Jefferson heard Todd and a few other men hatching a plan to “jump” the hijackers. The last words she heard were from Todd: “Are you guys ready? Then let’s roll!”

It will never be known whether the passengers broke into the cockpit. But it is certain that Flight 93 did not reach its intended destination. The Boeing 757 crashed into a rural countryside in Shanksville, Pa.

Todd’s parents, David and Peggy, say Todd’s actions that day were the result of his personal faith. His commitment to Jesus, nurtured in a Christian home and through involvement in a Bible-believing church, shaped his character.

In “Let’s Roll!: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage,” a book written after Todd’s death, his wife Lisa wrote: “What made Todd different from many other men who are merely religious was not the fact that he was willing to die for his faith; the terrorists did that! No, Todd was willing to live for his faith. … Todd built his life on a firm foundation so that when the storm came on September 11 he didn’t have to check the blueprints to see if everything he had built his life on was going to stand. He knew.”

“The Lord has been gracious to us,” Peggy Beamer said in a recent interview. “The heartache is real, but the loss of Todd has not devastated us. God has been the refuge we taught our children He would be. David and I have found that Isaiah 26:3 is true: ‘You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you’” (NIV).

The legacy of Todd Beamer, who graduated from Wheaton College in 1991, continues to be celebrated by his alma mater. In 2003, the college named the student activities building after him. The Beamer Center, on the suburban Chicago campus, is a gathering place for students and their families and bears witness to the courageous faith of one of their most well-known alumni who gave his life in service to his Lord.

Greg Asimakoupoulos is an author and the chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores, a Christian retirement community in suburban Seattle. This article originally appeared in Mature Living magazine.

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  • Greg Asimakoupoulos