The Standard September 23, 2021
In his Farewell Discourse immediately after the Last Supper Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:9-14)
From phone calls and recordings of United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, we learn of a remarkable group of passengers and crew members who quickly consulted with each other and agreed to jeopardize their own lives to save others. Early that morning, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists boarded four different commercial airplanes in the northeast of the United States headed for California. They chose early non-stop flights that would have full fuel tanks and fewer passengers to put up resistance against their plan to hijack the planes and to fly them into four of the country’s most important buildings. Three of the airplanes hit the hijackers’ intended targets. United Flight 93, however, was delayed over 25 minutes out of Newark, NJ. After the terrorists took control of the cockpit, many passengers and crew members were able to use Airfones or cell phones to establish contact with loved ones. They learned that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center that morning and knew their flight was going in a different direction. It was diverted to Washington, DC, most likely to the U.S. Capitol or the White House.
32-year-old passenger Todd Beamer reached Lisa Jefferson, an operator at the Verizon Airfone Call Center. In the 15-minute call Beamer described the situation onboard and the plan they were formulating to retake the cockpit, asked Jefferson to convey his love to his wife and two young sons, and asked the operator to recite the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 with him. Towards the end of the call Jefferson heard Beamer say, “Are you guys ready? Okay. Let’s roll!” It then sounded as if a group of passengers rushed towards the cockpit in order to gain entry. The cockpit voice recorder captured sounds from the struggle until the plane crashed into the ground in Shanksville, PA. Everyone on board died.
The heroes in this tragedy were those who gave up their lives so others could live. On and soon after September 11 we learned of countless first responders and saints who gave the ultimate sacrifice at Ground Zero, the Pentagon and Shanksville.
Todd Beamer’s wife Lisa later co-wrote a book entitled Let’s Roll. “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…” Beamer attended Wheaton Christian Grammar School and High School then graduated from Wheaton College where he met Lisa. An exemplary businessman, Sunday School teacher and church leader, he never met their daughter who was born four months after he died. All three of their children attended Wheaton College, one of our finest Christian institutions.
Found in the armrest tray between the front seats of Beamer’s car after September 11 was a stack of Scripture memorization cards. The top card had Romans 11:33-36 written on it: “’Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!’ ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?’ ‘For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.’”