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'Let's Roll'

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It was a lovely September morning—not a cloud to be seen across the brilliant blue sky. United flight 93 took off from Newark bound for San Francisco. It should have been a straightforward, easy, six-hour flight. But instead the plane made a hairpin left turn above Cleveland, veering sharply off course and turning south at first, then east... straight toward Washington, D.C.

It became a story with a challenging message. The words "let's roll" have to do with taking on a task realizing there is a sacrifice involved. It was the story of the civilians of flight 93 at the time of the Twin Towers attack when they took on the hijackers rather than let the plane fly on to Washington.

Later "Let's Roll" would become a U.S. rallying cry against terrorism. It was the only terrorist attack that day in which no lives were lost on the ground as a result of the crash. Tragic as it was, the plane fortunately didn't crash into the Capitol nor the White House, Camp David or any other national landmarks. Instead, it crashed at 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, in an open meadow with only a stone cabin more than a quarter of a mile away. There were many heroes on the flight that day. One of them was a young man named Todd Beamer.

Todd had made a phone call from the flight. He called on the passenger seat Airphone and the call went to Lisa Jefferson, the operator in the Chicago area. Lisa took the call, which covered some 15 minutes in duration. Lisa was the last human link with Todd.

Afterward she provided a firsthand account of what Todd had said and done. Todd kept Lisa informed as to what was happening on the flight. At one time he recited Psalm 23 with her. At another time he said he was going to have to go out in faith.

He also told her a little about his family and made Lisa Jefferson promise to call them and tell them how much he loved them.

Then Todd said to brave fellow passengers, "Are you ready? Let's roll." He left the phone hanging still connected. He never came back on. Lisa heard screaming in the background. Shortly after that the plane went down, blasting a hole in the earth 50-feet deep.


Todd Beamer died when he led the charge aboard flight 93 to try to recover the cockpit from the hijackers. His courageous actions didn't save the lives of his fellow passengers, but he and others helped prevent the aircraft from reaching its target—perhaps the U.S. Capitol building. Todd Beamer, age 32, left behind two little boys aged 3 and 19 months and Lisa his pregnant wife.

After 9/11, a Vietnam veteran sent Lisa Beamer his Purple Heart earned in battle. A World War II veteran did the same. The U.S. Congress gave her a prolonged standing ovation. And of Todd Beamer's heroic act? According to an editorial in the Dallas Morning News, he became one of the three most admired individuals in America. Todd and Lisa Beamer became symbols of national and personal strength in the face of crisis, Todd for the brave actions that cost his life, and Lisa for her gracious and courageous response.

Lisa Beamer has written of the tragedy and its effect on her life in Let's Roll. She explains that Todd was raised with strong biblical values, which emphasized family loyalty, faith in God and personal integrity. Each morning before school, Todd's mother would read to her children a chapter from the book of Proverbs.

"Let's roll" was a phrase Todd often used with the family. When the boys heard "Let's roll!" they would head for the door. They knew what it meant, sort of "Let's get ready for the next thing we're going to do." And they were Todd's last recorded words.

"Let's roll" is their story—a message of character, courage and faith in the face of horrifying tragedy. "Let's roll" gave courage to a nation at a critical time and then became the rallying cry against terrorism.

A Rallying Cry for the Elect

But what about the firstfruits? It is also our story. How do we view challenge? Todd's one quick heroic act probably saved many lives and he became a hero. But saints "die daily" and do this year after year. And it often seems unnoticed. A promise goes along with this daily sacrifice—that the world will not be destroyed because of the elect's sake (1 Corinthians 15:31 and Matthew 24:22). In this sense we too are involved in saving many lives.

There are many biblical heroes we can turn to who also faced great challenges and saved lives. Esther was a heroine who rose to the challenge of saving her people. Her attitude of "If I die, I die" is one the firstfruits identify with completely. The saints have an overriding purpose in life of spreading the gospel so many can know God's real truth and be saved.

Todd Beamer will live again in a world free from terrorism. The firstfruits will have a part in preparing that world free of the ultimate terrorist of this world, the one who holds the world captive, Satan.

This should keep our faith strong. And with Esther's words, "If I perish, I perish," we realize that death is just a comma, not a full stop. There is encouragement in remembering the words "let's roll"—for even in death we still make it. What a marvelous plan. What a wonderful God! UN