UNITED FLIGHT 93
'Let's roll,' Flight 93 victim heard to say minutes before crash
"Are you guys ready? Let's roll!" It's an expression Todd Beamer used whenever his wife and two young sons were leaving their home for a family outing.
It was also the expression the 32-year-old businessman and Sunday school teacher used before he and other passengers apparently took action against hijackers aboard United Airlines Flight 93, his wife was told by an operator who talked to Beamer just before the plane crashed in a western Pennsylvania field last week.
The plane, which government officials suspect was headed for a high-profile target in Washington, was the fourth to crash in a coordinated terrorist attack that killed thousands, and the only one that didn't take lives on the ground.
"He was gentle by nature, he was also very competitive, and he wouldn't stand for anyone being hurt," said Lisa Beamer, whose account coincides with other crash victim relatives who received calls from loved ones aboard the plane. "Knowing that he helped save lives by bringing that plane down ... it brings joy to a situation where there isn't much to be found."
Todd Beamer placed a call on one of the Boeing 757's on-board telephones and spoke for 13 minutes with GTE operator Lisa D. Jefferson, Beamer's wife said. He provided detailed information about the hijacking and -- after the operator told him about the morning's World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks -- said he and others on the plane were planning to act against the terrorists aboard, Lisa Beamer said.
"They may have realized that (the hijackers) were planning to do the same thing with their plane," Beamer said Sunday in a telephone interview from her Hightstown, N.J., home. "So they chose to do what they could to prevent other people from being hurt."
Before the call ended and with yelling heard in the background, Todd Beamer asked the operator to pray with him. Together, they recited the 23rd Psalm, which includes the passage: "(the Lord) leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." Then he asked Jefferson to promise she would call his wife of seven years and their two sons, David, 3, and Andrew, 1. She is expecting their third child in January.
After finally receiving clearance from investigators, Jefferson kept her promise Friday.
"People asked me if I'm upset that I didn't speak with him, but I'm glad he called (Jefferson) instead," Lisa Beamer said. "I would have been helpless. And I know what his last words would have been to me, anyway. I think that's why he chose the method he did."
Beamer said her husband placed the call at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday and told Jefferson that there were three knife-wielding hijackers on board and one had what appeared to be a bomb tied to his chest with a red belt. Two of the hijackers were in the cockpit with the door locked -- the pilot and co-pilot were forced out -- and the man with the apparent bomb stayed in the rear of the aircraft.
The jet was bobbing and changed course several times. The passengers knew they would never land in San Francisco.
"They realized they were going to die. Todd said he and some other passengers were going to jump on the guy with the bomb," Lisa Beamer said.
Several other passengers made phone calls from the jet before it crashed southeast of Pittsburgh. Jeremy Glick, 31; Mark Bingham, 31; and Thomas Burnett Jr. 38, all called loved ones. Glick and Burnett said they were going to do something.
"Clearly, we know the plane that crashed outside Pittsburgh was headed for Washington," Vice President Dick Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday. "Without question, the attack would have been much worse if it hadn't been for the courageous acts of those individuals on United 93."
After the prayer was finished and the promise was made to call his wife, Todd Beamer dropped the phone, leaving the line open. It was then that the operator heard Beamer's words: "Let's roll."
They were the last words she heard. The phone went silent, and the plane crashed, killing all 44 people aboard. United issued a statement Sunday saying one of the 37 passengers had purchased two tickets, so the number of people had been incorrectly reported as 45.
"Some people live their whole lives, long lives, without having left anything behind," Lisa Beamer said. "My sons will be told their whole lives that their father was a hero, that he saved lives. It's a great legacy for a father to leave his children."
Bobbi Hennessey, a spokeswoman for GTE parent company Verizon Communications Inc., declined to comment Sunday and a telephone number for Jefferson could not be determined. However, a Verizon employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Jefferson is a supervisor for the company.
At a memorial service held Sunday at Princeton Alliance Church in Plainsboro, N.J., hundreds of friends and relatives remembered Todd Beamer as a devoted family man, a devout Christian, a good friend and a hero.
"I've, of course, asked myself many times why was our beautiful son on that plane?" said David Beamer, Todd's father. "We know why he was on it. The faces of evil -- those particular hijackers -- they got on the wrong plane.
"Todd and these newfound friends on Tuesday morning -- newfound freedom fighters is what they were -- they did the right thing."