When my five-year-old daughter, Sarah, and I go to the grocery store, the lady behind the counter often gives her a brightly colored helium-filled balloon. One day when we got back home, instead of taking her balloon inside, she asked me, "Can I give my balloon to Jesus, Daddy?" We had never suggested anything like this to her; it was all her idea. Of course I agreed, and as it sailed skyward, she exclaimed, "Look, it’s flying up to Jesus!"
On September 11, 2001, over three thousand people had their lives taken from them. Some of these, the rescuers, went deliberately into harm’s way, knowing full well that they might lose their lives while trying to save others. A few very deliberately gave their lives so that others might live. Todd Beamer was one of them.
There are as many stories as there were victims on The Day Everything Changed. I have chosen to share Todd Beamer’s story on the anniversary of that day because, by all accounts, Todd went to his death without fear. Todd Beamer (along with many others who died that day) knew exactly where his spirit would go the instant breath left his body.
Todd Beamer wasn’t supposed to be on United Flight 93 that day. Normally he would have flown to his business meeting the evening before, but he had just returned from a family vacation, and decided to fly the next morning.
Todd and his wife Lisa had three children. Two of them, David and Drew, got to know their daddy before he went to Heaven. Their third child, Morgan, was born four months later.
From all accounts, the passengers on the two airliners that smashed into the Twin Towers probably did not realize they were about to die until moments before their planes exploded. But the passengers on Flight 93 had learned though friends and family via cell phones that these hijackings were different. Contrary to what the terrorists told them, they realized their plane was not returning to the airport. They surmised that the Islamic murderers controlling their plane planned to crash it into a heavily populated area.
We will never know how many passengers or crew participated in the attempt to regain control of the plane. We do know that at least four men did, and that Todd Beamer took a leadership role in the attempt. It is his voice that was recorded speaking the words often quoted by President Bush: "Let’s roll." When these brave men found that they could not overpower the fanatics, authorities believe they deliberately crashed the plane in a rural area rather than allow it to proceed to its intended destination, almost certainly Washington, D.C.
Before the attempt to take control of the plane from their hijackers, many passengers called home. Todd Beamer called an Airphone operator and calmly gave her as many details as possible about the hijackers and the situation on the plane. Always considerate, he told the operator, Lisa Jefferson, that he did not want to upset his wife unless he had to, so he didn’t plan to call her until the emergency was over. He prayed with Mrs. Jefferson, and then asked her to call his family and tell them how much he loved them in case he didn’t survive. Then Jefferson heard him say, "Are you guys ready? Let’s roll!"
Todd Beamer loved his Lord. When he made the decision to give his life to God, he knew that the promise, "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord," applied to him. That’s why, when the decision was made to crash the plane in a Pennsylvania field to save countless lives, he knew he would he would fly up to Jesus…