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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The love of Lisa and Todd Beamer

Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros

The love of Lisa and Todd Beamer

Blurb: “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40: 30-31)

Lisa Beamer. A homemaker, mother, and the widow of Todd Beamer, one of those who perished aboard United Airlines Flight 93, 9-11. She spoke eloquently of the “need to move on in life without hatred.”

Todd Beamer. Cool friend, a martyr in the end. Athletic. A huge fan of Chicago Bulls, loves his wife and sons more than anything on earth. Perished at the age of 32 in the ill-fated United Flight 93 without being able to see the birth of his third child, Morgan.

With the help of Ken Abraham, a professional writer with world-class credentials, the beautiful Christ-centered love story of Lisa and Todd Beamer is masterfully woven in the book “Let’s Roll”, in memory of 9-11 casualty Todd, who used the phrase to mean “we’re going to do what we need to do here; let’s put our best foot forward.”

Surprised by love

Lisa said she was “surprised by love”. About 12 months before she graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois, she said she began dating a guy she met in her campus. She described the guy to have some great character traits, so that they developed a strong relationship. For the first time, she could imagine wanting to spend the rest of her life with someone. And that a few months into the relationship, they became engaged.

Yet, surprisingly, something inside her felt it just wasn’t right! Deep down, she knew that for all of his admirable qualities, the man and her were not right for each other. Besides, she didn’t want to marry at 22 or 23. She wanted to be on her own first and prove that she could take care of herself. Moreover, she realized that both of them needed more time to mature emotionally. She knew she had to call off the wedding.

Before that, Todd sat down in the seat next to Lisa on the first day of the Senior Seminar at Wheaton. But their contact was extremely limited, Lisa recounted. He smiled casually; and Lisa noticed his red plaid shirt and his relaxed manner. Because the seminar was in a roundtable discussion, Lisa got the opportunity to observe Todd as he interacted with other students.

“Soon, I realized he was not at all the way I had assumed. He was actually rather humble, soft-spoken, bright, and articulate. I was particularly impressed by his willingness to listen to the opinions of others and let them take the lead in discussion,” Lisa said.

The two became sort of partners in the class, sharing ideas on projects and calling each other about upcoming assignments. Definitely impressed with Todd, Lisa was a little dismayed that she hadn’t gotten to know him earlier in their college years. She regarded their relationship as a budding friendship. She wouldn’t know until much later that Todd’s thoughts were more on the romantic side. But because she was dating someone else at that time, there was no place in her life for Todd Beamer…or so she thought.

For a while, Lisa was quite content living by herself. She had just come out of a serious relationship (after she broke off engagement), so that she wasn’t looking for another one. She was just 22 and had a cute little apartment over a shop in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, with her own furniture and decorations, her own car and a new job. What else in life did she need,” she asked.

Little did she know that in September of that same year, Todd and some buddies of his were discussing her and her future. While Todd and longtime friend and roommate Keith Franz were staying at Keith’s parents’ home in Medinah, another friend – Dave Ochs – stopped by.
According to Keith, Dave told Todd, “I have some great news for you. Lisa Brosious broke off her engagement.”

Todd’s eyes were said to have opened wide, as though he’d just seen or heard something amazing.

Shortly after that, another friend, Steve Hellier, and Todd saw Lisa at church, sitting with some friends.

“You ought to ask her out,” Steve suggested to Todd.

“Naaaaahhh, she’s still hooked on that other guy,” was Todd’s reply.

“No, she’s not,” Steve insisted.

“Well, I don’t have her phone number.”

“If I get her number, will you ask her out?” Steve then asked.

A few weeks later, in late October, Todd called Lisa in her apartment, but she wasn’t home. Kara, a former college roommate was visiting and took the message. Curious, Lisa called Todd back that night, and exchanged small talk for nearly half an hour. Todd came to the apartment to pick Lisa up for their first date on November 2, 1991.

From their first date, it was clear to Lisa that Todd was a guy who had a clear focus on life. She admired him that he had a strong work ethic and a direction in life in which he wanted to go. Todd told her he wanted to finish his master’s degree in business. Lisa thought: Motivated, intelligent, fun to be with, great sense of humor, quick to smile, and funny too. This guy could be a keeper.

Lisa knew Todd cared for his family, too. He spoke often with his sisters and parents, and Lisa saw that as a good thing. She thought, Most likely, he will one day love his own wife and children in a similar way.

Keeping with their Thanksgiving tradition of hiking up Turkey Mountain, Todd and Lisa made the trek up the slope on November 24, Todd’s birthday. It was a crisp, cool day, and when they reached the peak, they looked out over the incredible view. The New York City skyline was visible in the distance, and they could clearly make out the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center towers. They were talking about their future when Todd suddenly asked, “Well, would it be so bad to be my wife?” hearkening back to the question he’d asked when they first started dating. The twinkle in Todd’s eyes told Lisa he was asking her to marry him.

Todd pulled out an engagement ring and placed it on her finger. Todd later teased Lisa as to why he wanted to get engaged on his birthday rather than on Thanksgiving or Christmas. “If we get engaged on a holiday, the ring is considered a gift. So if something happens and we break up, I can’t get it back!”

There was no danger of him getting the ring back. Lisa, said, she was head over heels in love with Todd Beamer.

A day Lisa will never forget

September 11. She was getting ready to go to the grocery store when the phone rang. She ignored it since she was about to walk out the door. But the answering machine picked up the call, and she heard the familiar voice of her friend Elaine Mumau who sounded stressed.

“Hi, Lisa. I know Todd is traveling today…and I was just calling to check on him…Do you have your television turned on? … Have you seen what’s happening?”
Lisa grabbed the phone. “Elaine, what are you talking about?”

“Turn the TV on,” Elaine instructed. “There’s been a plane crash at the World Trade Center.”

So Lisa turned on the teevee and saw the Twin Towers enveloped in a huge plume of smoke. A second plane had just smashed into one of the towers, tearing a gaping hole in the building and setting it ablaze. Commentators described the scene in shocked, pensive tones. Lisa stood in front of the teevee, petrified by the horrific sight. Before long the newscasters reported that two planes – an American Airlines flight and a United Airlines flight – were missing and might have been the ones that hit the towers.

“As I sat on the bed that Tuesday morning of September 11, my world had suddenly come to a halt. For a long time after I saw the crash site on television and heard the news that it was a United flight that had crashed in Pennsylvania, I stared blankly at the field outside our window, trying to make sense of it all,” Lisa told Ken Abraham in an interview for the book “Let’s Roll”.

Shortly after noon United Airlines called. Sitting on the corner of Todd’s and her bed, she picked up the telephone on the nightstand.

“Mrs. Beamer, my name is Nick Leonard from United Airlines. I’m sorry to inform you that your husband was a passenger aboard Flight 93 that has crashed in Pennsylvania.”

“I know,” she replied calmly. She didn’t break down crying hysterically. She didn’t yell or scream or make outbursts at all. Although the United Airlines rep made no reference to terrorist activity aboard the flight, there was never a thought in her mind that that was a random accident. No one around her thought that the crash was due to an equipment failure or pilot error. Almost immediately reports circulated on the news that federal aviation authorities had reason to believe that the plane had been hijacked in a similar manner as those that had struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. There were even reports that some people had made cellular telephone calls from the plane before it had gone down.

Strangely, Lisa felt some sense of relief in knowing that Todd had been aboard a plane that had crashed without hitting a building or another national landmark, causing further death and destruction or calamity in the country. Tragic as it was, the plane had gone down in a reclaimed field that had once been a coal strip mine and was now a grassy meadow in a rural area of Pennsylvania. It was the only terrorist attack that day in which no lives were lost on the ground as a result of the crash.

The most unsettling moments came when Lisa thought about the third baby she was carrying. Todd and her had been so excited as the pregnancy progressed. As her hands grazed her belly, she was reminded that she is now a single parent of two – David and Drew – and expecting another.

I love you (as recorded)

The family had heard that other passengers aboard Flight 93 had contacted loved ones by cell phone and that the passengers had planned some sort of attempt to overthrow the hijackers. Everyone speculated about Todd’s possible involvement.

One question nagged Lisa: If others were making calls aboard the flight, why hadn’t Todd called her? He lived with a cell phone practically attached to his ear. If others found the means and the time to call, why hadn’t Todd?

Friday evening, around 9 pm, Nick Leonard, the family liaison with United Airlines called.
“Lisa, the FBI has released information that Todd did make a phone call from the flight. He called on the GTE Airfone aboard the plane, and the call went to an operator’s switchboard stations in the Chicago area. The FBI has been keeping the information private until they’ve had an opportunity to review the material. But now they’ve released it.”

It was clear from the information Nick read that Todd hadn’t been murdered by the terrorists. Quite the contrary – he had been actively involved in communicating with someone on the ground, providing information about the hijackers in hopes that somehow he and some of the other passengers could devise a plan to thwart the terrorists’ efforts. As Nick relayed the operator’s summary, Lisa scrawled quickly in staccato form: “… do we know where he was sitting? 10 in front, 27 in back…flight attendant next to him – told him what had happened in first class…what do they want? Ransom?…Todd – Jeremy Glick discussed together to “jump”…[hijacker]…said, going down, we’re ok, we’re coming back up, we’re turning around – I think we’re headed north…completed the Lord’s Prayer with him…asked Jesus to help him – knew he wasn’t going to make it - … told about family, made a promise to call Lisa to tell that he loved his family and wife and children very much…Todd said, are you ready, let’s roll – put phone down but never came back on…could hear screaming in background…”

The Shanksville crash site

The plane had come down in an open field, an area that had once been a coal strip mine and since had been reclaimed, graded, and replanted. Off in the distance, Lisa could see a farmhouse, but there were no buildings anywhere else for miles. Silently Lisa thanked God for that. Compared to the horrific scenes of devastation at Ground Zero and the Pentagon, the Shanksville crash site seemed almost serene.

Because of the reclaimed strip mine, the ground was softer than other surrounding areas. The plane had pierced the earth like a spoon in a cup of coffee: the spoon forced the coffee back, and then the coffee immediately closed around the spoon as though nothing had troubled the surface. Anything that remained of Flight 93 was buried deep in the ground.

At the top of the bluff overlooking the site, a makeshift altar area had been constructed from several bales of hay. Two small flags and one large flag were stuck in it. A cross with white bunting was on the side of the hay-bale memorial.

Lisa had been told in advance that families of the victims would be able to place wreaths, flowers, notes, pictures, or other personal items at the crash site memorial area.

As her special mementos of Todd, Lisa left an Oracle pen, a Chicago Bulls cap, some pictures of Todd and the boys, a container of M&M’s (one of Todd’s favorite candies), notes from family members expressing love and pride of Todd, and a book A Life of Integrity by Howard Hendricks that Todd and the guys had been using in their Friday-morning breakfast group.

And this note she didn’t only leave on the site but she has been living up to: “To Todd, my husband, my everyday hero. Thank you for loving God, loving us, and always playing hard. Thank you for teaching me patience and mercy. I love you and promise to finish our journey well. See you later…”


Wow! How many of us can love with a love like that? If you want a copy of the book “Let’s Roll” by Lisa Beamer as told to Ken Abraham, drop by at OMF-Literature, Ramos street. Costs PhP875. I tell you, it is a precious find. If you want to borrow, come to my workstation and sign up my borrower’s card. It pays to be in love, all day, everyday!


Share your views about love and your love story and get published on the V-Day. Crank up my email addy: pinay_mangatkatay@yahoo.com. Or text me at 0921-5323616. Join our Banat News Love Note Writing Contest and win fabulous prizes. For previous articles, visit www.pinaymangatkatay.blogspot.com. Thanks!

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