CHARLES TOWN – David Beamer, a soft-spoken retiree from Potomac, Md., held middle schoolers here spellbound Tuesday afternoon as he shared details of his son’s death on Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001.
Many students already had heard the dramatic tale of David and Peggy Beamer’s only son, Todd Beamer, who famously gave the rallying cry, “Let’s roll!” minutes before helping to seize the plane from the hijackers. It crashed it into a meadow in Shanksville, Pa., rather than the terrorists’ intended target in Washington, D.C.
Now with the Beamers in the gym at Charles Town Middle School to address an assembly of eighth-graders, the teenagers – just toddlers when the devastating attacks occurred – had the chance to hear first-hand about Beamer, who left behind his wife, Lisa, two sons – young teenagers now – and a daughter born four months after his death.
As photos of Todd as a youngster were displayed on a big screen behind him, Beamer explained how Todd approached learning. “He worked hard at school,” he said. “He had to study to get good grades, and that’s what he did.”
Beamer told students that Todd bickered at times with both his siblings, one older sister and one younger; how he loved baseball, basketball and soccer; that he was a good listener – a trait that helped him in his career in computer software sales.
Beamer also described his last face-to-face meeting with his son. His extended family had gathered in August as his parents marked their 60 th wedding anniversary. “My son was only 32 when he died,” Beamer told the students. “When we said goodbye that day, I had no idea this would be the last time I’d ever see him.”
But, Beamer said, he and Todd said farewell in the usual way, and that he was grateful for that. “It was our practice to hug and we hugged that day. I said, ‘Love you, Beam. Be careful’ and then they headed up I-95 toward home.”
Beamer encouraged students to be affectionate with their loved ones. “When your mom or dad wants a hug, that’s a good thing to do,” he said. “I’m sure glad we did it that day.”
Beamer also thanked the students for inviting him to speak and for working to raise funds to complete the memorial at Shanksville. “By raising money, you’re saying, ‘What happened on 9/11 deserves to be remembered,’ ‘’ he said. “You have decided you want to help, and that’s really great.”
Beamer told the students that while he has visited schools in Ohio, Indiana and elsewhere where students have organized efforts to collect donations for the memorial, this marked his first visit to a school in West Virginia.
“I hope in the years to come, I am able to visit many more schools and say thank you,” he said.
He also urged students to think about his son’s last words, recorded on the plane’s emergency phone after Beamer quietly described the situation to a dispatcher in Chicago and learned that other hijacked planes had crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
“My son is known for saying, ‘Let’s roll’ – it was his call to action,” Beamer said. “When you think of those words, I want you to think about taking a call to action – and then doing the right thing. That could mean doing your best in the sport you play. It could mean not joining in when someone is ridiculing another student. It could mean not joining in in some bad activity.”
Teacher Crystal Muia and the students who organized Tuesday’s talk – which also included Kenneth Snyder, a Berkeley County military retiree who survived the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon – asked students to sign a large banner that will be presented to the Shanksville memorial and to donate at least 93 cents each for the Flight 93 memorial.
To learn more about the memorial under construction, go to the “93 cents for Flight 93” page on Facebook, visit halofoundation.com/93cents online or call the HALO Foundation at 330- 376-9110.