Todd Beamer is an American Hero. On September 11th 2001, he, along with other passengers on United Flight 93, was able to deflect a second planned terrorist attack on Washington, DC. They lost their lives doing so.
Todd is unique in that his last moments were recorded during his conversation with Lisa Jefferson, a random, but now historic, GTE mobile carrier operator who took his call. Before Todd was an American Hero, he was merely a father, a brother, a husband, a son: So said his father, David Beamer, when I caught up with him in late August this year. Thirty-two year old Todd was a wonderful person to all who knew him, but did he show any early signs of heroism? My call to his father was to find the answers to this, and other questions. Who was Todd Beamer, what was he like as a child, and under what circumstances and conditions did he grow up?
I was understandably flustered when I placed the call. That Mr. Beamer had agreed to chat didn’t make it any easier. Here I was, about to speak to the father of a man who had sacrificed his life to save so many people. Sensing my nerves (maybe from my babbling), Mr. Beamer immediately took control and made me comfortable,
“Let me talk for a while”, he said. “You just listen, and if after a while you have questions from your notes, I’ll be glad to address them”. Relieved, I settled down to hear Todd’s story.
Todd had a normal mid-west childhood and was a “blessed” child in Wheaton, Illinois. His father was a successful, hardworking executive able to provide private school education for most of Todd’s school career. His mother was a stay at home mom. A middle child, bookmarked by two sisters, the young Beamer was an avid sportsman, a great team player and a good student. According to David Beamer, Todd was a “laid-back guy with a calm demeanor, but he was a competitor”. He was a leader who didn’t like losing, and he would likely strategize with his team to avoid failure at all cost. Todd played soccer, basketball and baseball, the latter through college. David Beamer considers his coaches excellent influences for Todd.
Todd grew up with both parents — his dad, and mom, Peggy; married for almost 50 years, they were part of, and still are, a faith-filled family. Coming from generations of active Christians, Todd was himself a Sunday School teacher at his church in New Jersey. They like to laugh (and it’s one of the things they still miss) and spend family time together. His parents encouraged Christian principles and a strong value system.
Mr. Beamer believes it is Todd’s teachers, coaches, mentors, Youth Pastors, and other community role models who reinforced what he was being taught at home, and contributed to the person Todd turned out to be. Self-responsibility and consequences were emphasized.
I asked if Todd was different or special as a child. Mr. Beamer said he showed no undue signs of heroism, with “no S on his chest”, and was a regular, normal kid. “Todd was not a perfect son, but he was an ideal son”. I asked for one story which captures who Todd was, and he chuckled as he recounts a great anecdote from Todd’s 5th Grade teacher. At the start of the semester, as was her custom, she asked all the children in the class to submit their preferred seat-mate by secret ballot – every child in that classroom chose Todd! He was wildly popular, well-liked and favored. He lived a Christian and died a hero. Won’t you want to sit beside Todd Beamer?
In truth, however, after our thirty minute conversation, I gleaned more of who Todd Beamer was, not so much from what David Beamer shared, but from whom I perceive David Beamer IS. The elder Beamer struck me as a measured, thoughtful, man of integrity. A displaced farm boy from Sebring, OH, he worked his way up to his current success as a leader in the tech industry and was proud to see Todd doing the same. He thinks that the community, (teachers, coaches, churches) plays a major role in how children turn out and is grateful Todd had such outstanding influences in his life. He expressed the hope that this blog encourages teachers and other role models to continue their good work, because they matter in our children’s future.
He reiterated that he and Peggy consider it a blessing that Todd was on that flight and was able to change the course of history. They consider it a blessing Lisa Jefferson could speak to their son in his last moments. It was a blessing, he said, that Todd’s final words were recorded. It was a blessing Todd knew what was going on – that terrorists had taken over the plane. It was a blessing Todd could ask for divine mercy at the end, and it’s a blessing that Todd died to save thousands of lives.
A blessing???!!!! In spite of such a heartrending loss, this is his attitude – humble, Christian, and inspiring. It is clear David Beamer is committed to the old-fashion American Ideals: Hard work leading to success combined with a deep-seated faith in Christ, counting your blessings, having a strong camp of role models, and doing the best by your country. By all accounts, and by his actions on 9/11, his only son reflected these same ideals. Indeed, Mr. Beamer sent me an email this morning, in which he said,
“A major blessing for us on 9/11 was that Todd was Christian on 9/10 … ready to meet God that fateful morning. On this day, the 11th anniversary of the Islamic attack, Todd is having a much better day than I am.”
The Beamers’ formula for bringing up excellence was faith-based, and on September 11, 2001, as Lisa Jefferson recalls in her book, Todd declared he had no choice but to “go out on faith”. Todd Beamer manifested the faith formula to the very end and thus, with his last words, “Let’s Roll!” became a national hero.
Below are some basic stats on Todd Beamer’s early life:
DOB: November 24, 1968
Place of Birth: Flint, Michigan
Complications at birth: None
Birth weight: Normal
Breast or bottle: No Comment
Talked when: Normal
Walked when: Normal
Potty trained when: N/A
Siblings: 2 sisters
Birth order: middle child
Raised in: Wheaton, IL
College: Fresno State University, CA, and Wheaton College, IL
Grad School: Master’s in business administration from DePaul University, Chicago, IL
Date of Death: September 11, 2001