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Family Talk: Parents have a chance to be everyday heroes

The Todd M. Beamer mural in the student center at Wheaton College shows Beamer walking and holding hands with his two young sons. [PHOTO PROVIDED]
The Todd M. Beamer mural in the student center at Wheaton College shows Beamer walking and holding hands with his two young sons. [PHOTO PROVIDED]

At this time of year, most of us reflect on the pivotal day of Sept. 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center was attacked. Thousands of lives were lost in the World Trade Center, and more lives were lost by the attack on the Pentagon that same day. Still, more lives were lost on United Flight 93.

Most of you know the story. The terrorists who hijacked United 93 planned to fly it into either the U.S. Capitol or the White House. But the terrorists were thwarted because passengers overpowered the hijackers with the express purpose of either regaining control of the plane or crashing it before they reached the intended target.

One of the leaders of that passenger action was a young man named Todd Beamer, a 32-year-old husband and dad, who is best known for his last words to his fellow passengers before engaging the terrorists, “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll.” 

Beamer was on United 93 headed to a business meeting. His work for Oracle required him to travel often. But he was on that particular flight because he had chosen to not take a more convenient flight the night before. He had chosen, instead, to spend the evening with his family and leave early the next day. He chose to leave home at 6:15 a.m., catch United 93, have his meeting, and return home that same night on a red-eye. He chose United 93 because he was committed to his family.

The passengers attacked the hijackers, and the plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The passengers were successful that day, if success is measured by thwarting the plot. But the price of success was their lives. They became instant heroes in the national consciousness and, today, there is a monument to their bravery in that field near Shanksville.

But the monument that impressed me was not the one in Shanksville, impressive though it is. My eye was caught by the monument to Todd Beamer erected on the campus of Wheaton College, Beamer’s alma mater. The Student Center at Wheaton was renamed in honor of Beamer, and near the entrance is a stone mural of Beamer walking, talking, holding hands with his two young sons.

It’s interesting the mural doesn’t depict Beamer in his most recognized moment of heroism but in an ordinary moment. The mural represents unrecognized heroism. Beamer’s commitment to family. Of being a dad. Of influencing the next generation. From what I’ve read, I suspect that’s what Beamer would want to be remembered for. An article in Christianity Today said this:

During his last phone call, Beamer recited the Lord's Prayer with Lisa Jefferson, a GTE Airfone operator (with whom he had established a last connection). Stan Ueland, a friend from Wheaton College, noted that Beamer's priorities were clear in his final conversation. Beamer spoke of his family and faith, Ueland said, "then he did what he had to do."

We seldom have opportunity to be a hero in a situation like United 93. But we have the opportunity to be a Beamer-like hero in our daily lives. We can do that by making family and faith our priority and then “doing what we have to do.” May God give us the courage and strength to say, “Let’s roll!” as faithful, everyday heroes in our families.

Jim Priest

Jim Priest is the CEO of Sunbeam Family Services, a 108-year-old nonprofit that provides a range of social services to support Oklahoma's most vulnerable people, including early childhood education, counseling, foster care and senior services. Jim... Read more ›

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