Remembering 9/11 with Lisa Beamer
About the Guest
When national tragedies open doors into the hearts of her citizens, how should Christians respond? Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with Todd Beamer's widow, Lisa, who was profoundly affected by the events of September 11, 2001.
Dennis Rainey talks with Todd Beamer’s widow, Lisa, who was profoundly affected by the events of September 11, 2001.
Remembering 9/11 with Lisa Beamer
Bob: The events of five years ago today took all of us – took the whole world – by surprise.
Announcer: Your attention please – American Airlines Flight 11 departing for Los Angeles is now boarding. American Flight 11 is now boarding …
Woman: We're in the cockpit of Flight 93 on the phone, and there's somebody stabbed in business class, and there's – we can't free the business class. Somebody's got mace or something.
[sound of plane crashing and exploding]
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, September 11, 2006. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Today we look back so that we might never forget.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. You know, I think every generation has its markers. I will never forget at the specific intersection where I was when I heard on the news that an airplane had flown into the World Trade Center, and I remember trying to imagine it, thinking a small private plane had maybe clipped an antenna at the top of the Trade Center tower. I had no idea until I was home a few minutes later and turned on the television what was actually happening.
Dennis: I'd been out jogging, and Barbara came and got me. We live out in the country, and she'd actually driven down to where I jog, and on the way home I began to filter through the facts with her and found out that our nation had been attacked, and I'm just amazed how quickly life can turn and everything be, in terms of values, instantly redefined, and we can be challenged in what we're living for.
Bob: There's a lot of clarity that comes in moments like what happened five years ago today, and we thought it was important for us and for our listeners to spend some time remembering not just the facts of what happened that day but remembering the feelings that were a part of that day as well.
[sound of plane crashing and exploding]
Man: I was at 200 yards in front of the World Trade Center. I was showing one of my associates where I used to work up a little bit from Wall Street, and we were a little early for the meeting and just thought we'd saunter around and check out the Wall Street area. Around 8:30 met another man there and had a cup of coffee before we were to go up in that building which was just five blocks from there, and we heard an explosion. That's New York City, and anything can happen in New York City. It didn't seem like it was anything particularly extraordinary until we got out of the coffee shop and looked at the World Trade Center, saw the first explosion, and it was just incredible.
[sounds of police radio]
Man: What you saw on TV, the hole in the tower and the flames coming out and, again, there's no CNN right by you, so you don't know what happened. I thought a bomb had gone off. Some people in the crowd said, "No, a plane hit it," and, again, I don't know it's a terrorist plane. I thought it was one of those small planes that circle around New York and, frankly, it wasn't until the second explosion that we're sitting there looking at that with amazement, like, "Wow, the World Trade Center is on fire. I guess they'll just put the fire out. It will be tragic and everything, but they'll just put the fire out, and then we'll read about it in the newspapers."
But what happened after that was just horrific, and it was very, very frightening, to say the least.
Reporter: The whole building just fell down. The whole building just fell down. The entire World Trade Center is collapsing.
Policeman: We've got a building collapse with officers possibly trapped in the Trade.
Policeman: We've got a 10-13. We've got a second tower down. We've got to get away from the tower. You've got another tower that just came down.
Carl: People crying, just dazed, just numb. Until they collapsed you were staring at them like this was just surreal, it was like a movie. It can't be real. The World Trade Centers aren't burning up, and then when they both collapsed – I've gone to New York for many, many years. That's a sight you're just used to seeing – to see World Trade Centers one hour and then there's nothing was just – it's just bizarre.
Bob: As Carl Myer and others stood on the streets of New York City unable to fully grasp what was happening around them, more than 200 miles away at the Pentagon Lieutenant Colonel Brian Birdwell was beginning what he expected would be a fairly routine day when suddenly he and his fellow servicemen and women were on alert.
Brian: And the first plane, there was some suspicion with it but thought that it could be a legitimate accident, but after the second plane knew something was up. But shortly thereafter, I guess about 20 minutes after the second plane had hit, I stepped out of the men's restroom about four or five steps, and I heard the sound …
[sound of explosion]
The first thing I thought was "bomb." But I didn't get to do much more than just think "bomb" because then at that point the explosion ripped through the building. I never saw the flames coming at me, but shortly after I thought "bomb" I was trying to get up.
Bob: At home in suburban Virginia, Brian's wife, Mel, had also become of what was happening in New York City.
Mel: We homeschool, and Matt and I were sitting down to do history, and a friend had called and said "The World Trade Center's been hit." So we turned the TV on, and we watched it for a few minutes and very uncharacteristic for me, we turned it off. And so Matt and I just sat back down at started doing history. And a neighbor called and said, "You need to turn the TV on, the Pentagon's been hit."
Brian: You don't know when it's going to stop. One minute I'm standing in a very clear corridor, and I know what direction I'm walking, and the next moment it's fire and smoke and darkness around me, and even if I could put myself out, I wouldn't know what direction to go. And so at that moment was when I first cried out to God that, "Jesus, I'm coming to see you," because I knew I was very badly burned, I was on fire, I couldn’t navigate my way out, and then the thing that was most painful, though, at that moment was an emotional pain of knowing I was going to see Mel and Matt anymore, I wasn't going to be able to enjoy the things here on earth that the Lord has given us. That was the day I was going to learn of the finality of my life.
Mel: As soon as I saw that it was by the helipad, I knew we were in big trouble, because I knew his office overlooked the helipad, because I'd just been there the week prior to that, and so Matt and I sat down, and we prayed, and it was really, really tough for Matt, because in his heart he knew where his dad's office was.
So we prayed again and called a friend of mine and asked her to call the pastors at the church and let them know and for her to come over and be with us.
Brian: One of my good friends that I'd been stationed with before, Colonel Bill McKinnon, was part of the group of guys carrying me out, and I said, "Hey, Bill, call Mel." And he had to look at my nametag to recognize me.
Mel: Probably two hours went by, and I got a phone call from the husband of a lady who had – when the plane hit the building, she had grabbed her Bible and left her office, and she went out a door that she'd not been out before, and when she got into the hallway, Brian was lying on the floor being triaged, and she just felt led to go an pray with him, and so she sat and prayed with him. They prayed The Lord's Prayer and the 23rd Psalm, and she said she just read psalms over him.
Looking at the pictures and the fire, I knew his office was consumed. I mean, you could clearly see that on TV that his office was consumed with fire, and I just had the calm peace that the Lord gave me that morning. I just quietly sat there and prayed and just waited for word, because I knew he was either with God, or he was going to be fine.
Lisa: I saw the crash at the Pentagon and at that point I thought, "I wonder how many flights are hijacked right now." Obviously, it was a bigger thing than we thought it was at the beginning.
Bob: Lisa Beamer, a mother of two sons who was expecting her third child, was watching the events of that day unfolding on her television in New Jersey. Her husband, Todd, had left early that day to fly to San Francisco.
Lisa: So I got on the phone to a couple of the airlines to try to figure out what was going on with him. I left a message on his cell phone, and said, "You know, you probably don't know what's going on right now, but you need to call me when you land to tell me where you are."
Bob: Lisa's brother, Paul Brosius would later recount the details of a phone call that did take place that morning between Todd Beamer and Lisa Jefferson, a GTE airphone operator from onboard United Flight 93.
Paul: I told Mrs. Jefferson that there were three people, nationality unknown, on the flight hijacking the plane – two with knives and one with a bomb strapped around his waist with a red belt. From what Todd could see, the hijackers had removed the pilot and the copilot from the cockpit. The pilots were injured, and it was unclear if they were dead or alive. Two hijackers went into the cockpit and locked the door. Mrs. Jefferson heard hollering and screaming in the background. Todd said, "Oh, they turned the plane around. We're going down – no, we're okay, we're coming back up. I think we're going north. I don't know where we're going."
He told Mrs. Jefferson that he had discussed plans with some other men to jump the hijacker with the bomb and try to get him down. Todd asked Mrs. Jefferson to recite the Lord's Prayer with him, and they said it together from beginning to end. He said, "O God, help me, Jesus help me." Todd talked to her about his family, mentioning them by name, and that his wife was expecting. He made Mrs. Jefferson promise to call his wife and tell her that he loved her, David, and Andrew very much.
The last thing Mrs. Jefferson heard Todd say was "Are you ready? Let's roll." He put the phone down but never came back. The call was still connected back with her, but nothing but silence. The connection ended at 9 a.m. Central Standard time.
Lisa: I saw the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania, and when I saw that flight, I got a bad feeling just because I knew that that's the direction his plane would have been traveling, and the timing was about right from when I thought his flight would have taken off. Then a few minutes later they came on and said that it was a Newark to San Francisco United flight, and when they said that, I instantly knew that that was his flight, and I had already seen a picture of it, so I knew that there was complete devastation of that plane; that there was no survivor. So it was at that moment on TV that I knew the fate of Todd, and I had an instant picture of what our family was facing, because I already, at that moment, had the knowledge in my heart of what had happened.
Bob: Christian leaders from across the country, people like Nancy Leigh DeMoss came on FamilyLife Today within hours to lead listeners in prayer for our country.
Nancy: Lord, along with many others this day, we pause and acknowledge gratefully and humbly that according to Your Word You are still on Your throne and, as we read in Daniel, "heaven rules." And, Lord, we realize in a fresh way today that our defense is not in men or governments or buildings, that we are powerless and defenseless without You. Thank you for the way that you are using the events of this week to turn the hearts of people to you in a way that perhaps might not have happened otherwise. What an incredible thing on the news this week to hear people talking about prayer and God and things that had been written out of our national fabric, and yet in the crisis we know that is really our only place of refuge and security.
Lord, my heart has been especially moved by the thoughts of what it must actually have been like. We can't even fathom, but just to see those images played out and then to realize that what we have witnessed, as horrifying and shocking as it has been, is nothing compared to the ultimate, final fury of your judgment and wrath on an unrepentant, unbelieving world.
And, Father, help us to care, to have some sense of what it will be like to have your judgment unleashed on this world and now, while there is still time for repentance, while you are still showing mercy, would you help us to link arms with you in taking the Gospel to our world in calling men and women everywhere to repent and to flee from the wrath to come even as had they had even moments of opportunity, people would have been warning those on those planes and in those buildings to flee from the wrath to come. Yet we know there is a wrath coming that is far more terrifying.
Lord, give us perspective and in the midst of upheaval and crisis here on this earth, we go back to what we know to be true, and that is that You are a refuge, our strength, our shield, and a very present help in time of trouble. So what men intend for evil, we believe in Your wisdom and sovereignty You can use for great good and to bring great glory to Your Name here on this earth. For Jesus' sake we pray it, amen.
Dennis: I want to encourage every Christian, I want you to listen to me, these are days to lead your family in prayer and, number two, these are days to be open to what opportunities you have to present hope where there is despair; to present the Gospel for that person who is lost. People are going to be talking about death. Use this opportunity to seize the moment and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no other hope other than God.
Bob: A window opened on September 11th, a window of opportunity for Christians to engage people around them who might have otherwise been uninterested in spiritual things; an opportunity to engage those people with the hope that is found in the Gospel. Chuck Price with Campus Crusade for Christ helped lead teams of people into New York, Washington, D.C., and other major U.S. cities where they handed out full-color, 16-age evangelistic magazines called "Fallen but not Forgotten."
Chuck: We had some of our staff going through the subway cars where staff had already been distributing the "Fallen but not Forgotten" and literally every person in the subway car was sitting there reading "Fallen but not Forgotten." I really believe we're in a unique period of history in America, probably when the doors are open spiritually maybe for a year, year and a half, our role, as believers, is simply to take the initiative to initiate towards people – to love them, to care for them, and my role, even as God brings somebody in my life, my role is not simply to get them a booklet or to give them a message. Part of my role is to be a message to them and to be a message to the fact that I want to show love and care and compassion.
Bob: As she looked back on the events of September 11th from almost a year later, Lisa Beamer could reflect on God's providence in the events of that day and on her responsibility to love and serve Him no matter what the cost.
Lisa: If I've learned anything since September 11th, it's just really that what we're called to do is live on faith moment by moment. Really, God is in control, and when we fall in line with His plans, that's the best place to be. When we just sit back and say, "God, I'm your vessel and use me, and I'm here to really obey and to share what you have me to share with whoever I'm going to bump shoulders with today. He is the God of the Universe, and He has a plan that far surpasses anything that I could ever understand. We're not here for our own happiness and our own gratification or to have an easy life, but we're really here to love God and to obey Him whatever He brings into our life, and to trust Him that His plans are supreme, and that He is going to take care of the big things and the little things, and He's been faithful on both of those for me.
Bob: Listening to that does bring it all back, and I think one of the memories that – well, we've reflected on this – the fact that there was a window of time following the attack on the Trade Center towers when you couldn't drive down the street without seeing a marquis on a fast-food restaurant that said, "Pray for America," "God Bless America." All of a sudden, God had gotten our attention, and people who didn't talk about spiritual things were asking spiritual questions.
Dennis: And, all of a sudden, separation of church and state evaporated, because we were in need of God protecting us and giving us wisdom in how we responded. You know, there's a story that came out of that day about a couple of men who were rescued, and they were rescued by an accountant on September 11, watching TV just like the rest of us, and this man, David Carnes [sp], asked God for wisdom. He went home, pulled his military clothing out of his closet …
Bob: … he was a former Marine, right?
Dennis: Right, and stopped by his church on the way to ground zero to pray with his pastor. And somehow found himself at ground zero looking for survivors along with another gentleman who mysteriously showed up. And those were the two men who found the last two survivors who were pulled from the rubble. Staff Sergeant David Carnes illustrates how we should respond when we face a crisis. Number one, he was prepared. It was interesting – he still had his uniform, and he was ready to step into a crisis.
Secondly, he wasn't arrogant. He asked God for favor, he prayed. But then, third, he didn't just get ready and pray, he acted. He was a man of conviction, and I think individuals today need to be prepared, they need to pray, and they need to act. They need to act on what they know the Scriptures teach, and they need to live heroically, courageously. And, in the process, it may be your marriage, your family, that you pull from the rubble.
Bob: Listening back today to the stories of what took place on 9/11 and hearing again about Brian and Mel Birdwell and what they went through at the Pentagon, and Lisa Beamer and her husband Todd who was on board United Flight 93, and the many others whose lives were dramatically changed that day – the courage that they exhibited. When I think of their stories, I think is it too hard for me to engage a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, even somebody that God might bring across my path with the hope that is found in the Gospel. And I know since 9/11, books like Lisa Beamer's book, "Let's Roll," Brian and Mel Birdwell's book called "Refined by Fire," these books have come out, and God has used them not only to strengthen Christians and to stir up faith in them but also to represent Christ to unbelievers who are just curious about the events that took place on that day from folks who were right in the middle of it.
And, again, I think resources like this help us always remember that we have to be ready, whether it's a national calamity or whether it's a personal challenge. We need to be ready to stand for Christ and to articulate the hope that is within us in the midst of these kinds of difficult circumstances.
Well, tomorrow we want to spend some time talking with parents about things we can do to effectively correct our children and help them learn how to obey and mature as they grow up. We'll find out what many of us are doing wrong and what we need to be doing as moms and dads, especially with younger children. Ginger Plowman is going to join us tomorrow. We hope you can be back with us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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