'Let's roll!' Phone record details passengers' revolt

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'Let's roll!' Phone record details passengers' revolt

In a call to an operator, a man describes the scene aboard a hijacked plane.

September 17, 2001

By DOUGLAS HOLT Chicago Tribune

CHAMPION, Pa. During the last moments aboard the hijacked Boeing 757 careening over Pennsylvania, Todd Beamer calmly reported the situation to a telephone operator.

The pilot and co-pilot were apparently injured or dead. Hijackers were flying the plane. And one hijacker guarded the passengers while wearing what he said was a bomb, tied around his waist with a red belt.

"I know we're not going to make it out of here," Beamer told Lisa Jefferson, a GTE-Airfone supervisor, before he and 44 others died when the plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania on Tuesday, the only one of four hijacked aircraft that did not strike a terrorist target.

Before reciting the Lord's Prayer, Beamer, 32, asked the operator to contact his wife to tell her that he loved her. Then he put the phone down and apparently joined a passenger revolt to retake control of the plane.

"Are you guys ready?" the operator heard before the connection was lost. "Let's roll!"

U.S. officials believe that United Flight 93 from Newark, N.J., originally bound for San Francisco, was streaking toward the U.S. Capitol or some other target in Washington when it came down.

"What they did was to foil, I think, the attack on Washington," Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

GTE-Airfone faxed a summary of the 15-minute conversation to Beamer's wife, Lisa, of Cranbury, N.J., on Friday, an account she supplemented in a call from the operator. Lisa Beamer said she instantly recognized "Let's roll!" as the words of her husband.

"He uses that with our little boys all the time," she said Sunday. "When I heard that part of the conversation, I knew that was Todd."

According to previous accounts, passenger Jeremy Glick, 31, told his wife he believed they could overpower the hijackers. "We can take them," he said. Thomas Burnett, 38, told his wife: "I know we're all going to die. There's three of us who are going to do something about it."

In her account, Jefferson wrote that Todd Beamer told her the hijackers divided passengers into two groups: 10 in front and 27 in back, which would account for all but one passenger. Five flight attendants appeared to be with the smaller group of passengers.

"Todd told me that there were three people ... on the flight hijacking the plane, two with knives and one with a bomb strapped around his waist with a red belt," Jefferson wrote. "I asked him if there were any children on the plane. Todd responded, not that he could see."

He said two people were hurt - the pilot and co-pilot, according to Lisa Beamer. He was "not sure if they were dead or alive," Jefferson wrote.

"Some of the passengers on the flight had decided to 'jump on' the hijacker with the bomb and try to get him down," the memo says. "The last thing Todd said to me was to call his wife for him and to pray for him. At this point Todd started reciting the Lord's Prayer."

Someday, Lisa Beamer said, she will tell the story to her children, David, 3, and Andrew, 1. She is expecting a third child in January. While the attacks were incomprehensible and devastating, Todd Beamer's apparent resistance has offered family members a small measure of comfort.

"This doesn't change the future of my family, but it sure gives credence to the person I know Todd was," Lisa Beamer said. "It gives us something we can hand down to our little boys."

-- PHO (owennos@bigfoot.com), September 17, 2001


With all the courage in the face of great horror, I hope the story of these brave people gets a special place in history.


-- Jackson Brown (Jackson_Brown@deja.com), September 17, 2001.

I used to fly for a job I had. I don't understand why the passengers on the other three planes didn't do the same thing. I was not scared to fly but I was always on edge from the time I got to the airport until I left. I think I would have figured out that maybe I wasn't going to get out alive and said "men, men, are you with me".

-- James Fitzgerald (jamesjfitz@juno.com), September 17, 2001.

I don't know who were on the other planes. Maybe none of them had the courage to do what these guys did.

-- John Littmann (johntl@mtn.org), September 18, 2001.

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