O Beautiful for Heroes Proved

A group of heroes who “more than self, their country loved” on board flight 93 were jolted wide awake on the morning of Tuesday, September 11th, 2001. Coming eye to eye with an enemy who promised to defeat America and all it stands for, they had to quickly decide what they were made of and how they would respond to the unexpected call to courage.

The passengers recognized the significance of what was unraveling beyond their own individual circumstances aboard that plane. Gripped by a gut-wrenching reality, each who joined the fight had to reach past fear and refuse to sit in silence hoping all would be well. This wasn’t about them; their nation was being attacked. Quickly assessing the situation, gathering information and devising a strategy, an unlikely band of patriots did not cower…did not stay seated and hope for a rescue…and they did not take orders from the enemy who had stormed the cockpit. They were not helpless. Their role was to reach beyond themselves, step towards the evil and overcome it. With a shout, ordinary individuals charged.

Before they made their move, Todd Beamer, one of the passengers, made a phone call from Flight 93, reaching a GTE Airphone Supervisor, Lisa Jefferson. She listened as he gave her information about the situation, himself and his family, and then Mrs. Jefferson prayed with him, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

After they prayed, Todd passed on messages of love for those whose smiles and hugs and whispers and laughter he would never see, touch or hear again. But he couldn’t stay with the comforting voice on the other end of the line or the thoughts of those he held dear. It was time to tap the character and responsibility he had spent a lifetime developing. He dropped the phone and led with the shout, “Are you guys ready? Let’s Roll!”; he wasn’t alone. Another passenger was quoted as finishing a phone call before the charge by saying, “It’s up to us, I think we can do it,” and another saying, “They’re getting ready to break into the cockpit; I have to go, I love you.” The passengers had agreed to join together and fight, and they took to the narrow aisle of their uncharacteristic battlefield high in the Pennsylvania sky. The evil that had our nation in its sights didn’t stand a chance when these men and women were called out from just another day in their one and only lives. They became the first to lead our nation into battle. The first to war, the first to die, and the first to courageous victory.

Within 30 minutes, according to Todd Beamer’s father, David Beamer, the passengers had assessed the threat, crafted a plan and with a selfless love and deep courage, stormed against the enemy’s power play. The target is believed to have been the Capital Building. The passengers led the counterattack and their’s was victory.

Even today, their courage calls back to us. It reminds us to face reality, pray, send our love, then boldly step onto the narrow places before us, and to go there together. It begs us to counter those who rail against the true and right and good known as the United States of America. The rally cry still echoes from the skies over Shanksville, Pennsylvania…

Todd Beamer and those aboard Flight 93 had their role, and Lisa Jefferson had hers. According to the website,Grace Matters, “Lisa Jefferson, the supervisor who stayed on the line with Todd Beamer, believes that each of us have been given an assignment by God and that He knows what we are capable of doing. She was merely accepting her assignment.”

You can read an interview with Lisa Jefferson, by Wendy Schuman, on the 5th anniversary of the September 11 attacks: “I Promised I Wouldn’t Hang Up”. Here she describes the events of that day and many to follow, as she began to understand how she had been placed there that day to carry out a mission. She has written a book entitled, Called – Hello My Name is Mrs. Jefferson and I understand your plane is being hijacked. The “Look-Inside” feature is available for this book on Amazon (within the link to above) if you would like to check it out.

May each of us accept and accomplish our assignments as did those who gave selflessly and charged at a moment’s notice in response to the attacks on 9/11; because the call to defend freedom goes on. It might emerge for us as it did for the passengers of Flight 93 from out of a crystal blue sky on that beautiful day in September 10 years ago, or maybe it’s nagging at you now to stand up and roll on a mission of your own. O Beautiful for heroes proved…

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrims feet,
Whose stem impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till paths be wrought through
wilds of thought
By pilgrim foot and knee!