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.

Lisa Beamer

Wheaton Academy Remembers Todd Beamer ‘87

Ordinary Man, Extraordinary Courage

It was supposed to be a one-day trip. He would take the early flight from Newark to San Francisco, attend his meeting, and fly back that night.

But Todd Beamer ’87 never made it back to his wife, Lisa, their two young sons, David and Drew, and their unborn child.

He never even made it to California.

It was September 11, 2001.

And Todd Beamer was on United Flight 93.

Delayed more than 40 minutes on the runway, Flight 93 took off only four minutes before an American Airlines Boeing 767 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center (WTC). The pilots of Flight 93 were informed of the crash and the two that followed only moments before four hijackers on their flight took over the cockpit and cabin. Passengers and flight attendants huddling in the rear of the plane used in-flight phones to contact their loved ones and officials on the ground.

Todd, trying to call his wife Lisa on one of the plane’s phones, was routed to customer service, and he spoke with GTE supervisor Lisa Jefferson. “He was calm through the entire conversation,” said Jefferson, “and I tried to stay just as calm with him.” Todd told Jefferson about the hijacking; he asked her to tell his wife he loved her and their family; they prayed the Lord’s Prayer together.

Are you guys ready?
Let's roll.

For thirteen minutes, the line stayed open. Jefferson overheard Todd and fellow passengers planning to confront the hijackers. They understood their plane was probably going to be used, like the other three, to carry out another attack, and they wanted to prevent that. The last words she heard Todd say were, “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll.”

Todd’s dad David sees the Lord’s hand in the delay of Flight 93, which allowed the passengers to know the full extent of the danger they were in and to take action based on this knowledge. Todd’s “Let’s roll” became the motto of our country’s counterattack.

But David Beamer stresses that “Let’s roll” is more than simply a motto. It is a call to action: to do the right thing at the right time.

Amid the pain and sorrow of this day, there were also blessings, according to David. The most significant blessing to the Beamer family was that they knew Todd was in the presence of Jesus. Todd was an organized guy, and he carefully planned out each day in his Daytimer. He had not planned on meeting God that beautiful September morning, but he was ready for the meeting. David’s message is that it is all about the “day before.” As a Christian, Todd had accepted Jesus as his Savior and was ready for September 11, 2001.

According to David, both Wheaton Christian Grammar School and Wheaton Academy played important roles in developing Todd’s walk with the Lord. In 2011, on the tenth anniversary, the Academy held a memorial service and dedicated a plaque in Todd’s honor in the Hanson Memorial Garden on campus. David and Peggy Beamer attended the dedication ceremony, and David shared the following:

“A great part of the development of this man, Todd Beamer, was because of the experience he had here. Walking the grounds, including the soccer field, and the baseball field, and the basketball court, and the classrooms…had much to do with the reinforcement [of his faith] and with helping Todd Beamer become Todd Beamer.”

The Beamers have stayed connected with and been supportive of the Academy. In 2001, the annual Academy golf outing – begun in 1990 – was held on September 10. As details of the horrific terrorist attacks unfolded the following day, word was received about Todd Beamer aboard Flight 93. Gene Frost, event organizer Frank Fernandes, and others suggested the outing be renamed in Todd’s memory. David and other members of the Beamer family frequently return to participate in the Todd Beamer Golf Outing, an event dedicated to raising scholarship funds to make a Wheaton Academy education accessible to those without the financial means.

David and Peggy Beamer

David and Peggy Beamer attended the 2021 Todd Beamer Golf Outing honoring the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Former WA Head of School Gene Frost ’71 was one of Todd’s coaches. He remembers Todd well. At this year’s Todd Beamer Golf Outing, Frost sat down with David to capture his memories and thoughts. David’s message is as relevant as ever. “Let’s roll” is about choices—the choices each of us face every day, every hour, every minute. Accepting Jesus as Savior is the most important decision of one’s life. Because Todd made this decision—this choice—his loved ones have the peace that passes all understanding. They know they will see Todd again in heaven.

The mission of Wheaton Academy is to nurture growth in students through relationships, excellence, and service to the glory of God. The desire is for each student to have a personal relationship with Jesus and caring relationships with their parents, peers, and teachers. Raising children is not easy, but parents can find a community of other believers within a Christian school who will pray for and invest in their children.

Todd Beamer playing basketball 1985-86

In 1915, Charles Blanchard, son of Jonathan Blanchard, shared his vision for Christian education in his autobiography:

The spiritual life of a school is the main thing. It is the end for which all other things exist. Of what value are buildings, equipment, books, apparatus, students, and teachers if the result is not spiritual gain for man and the world? Not only is the spiritual the main thing in [school] life, but it is the most difficult thing. 

Todd Beamer’s actions on September 11, 2001, have left a lasting impact and a call to action for us.

Todd’s personal relationship with Christ provided the foundation on which his choices and actions were built. This current generation will face unique challenges, but they need that same foundation. In order to make the tough choices–willing to do the right thing at the right time—our students need our prayerful support so they will be “ready to roll.”

Imagine raising up a generation of Todd Beamers.