11 Days of Heroes to September 11th: Todd Beamer

Image from the Associated Press

Todd Beamer grew up in Glen Ellyn and graduated from Wheaton College in 1991. On September 11th, 2001, he was on United Airlines Flight 93 to San Francisco. It was believed his hijacked flight was headed to Washington, possibly the White House or Capitol. About 40 minutes into the flight, al-Qaeda hijackers took control of the plane wearing red bandanas around their foreheads as it flew over eastern Ohio.

Flight attendant Sandy Bradshaw used an Airfone to dial the United Airlines Maintenance Facility in San Francisco to report the hijacking. The manager described her as “shockingly calm” and she relayed that the hijackers were in the first class cabin and cockpit, announced they have a bomb, pulled a knife and killed a flight attendant. This began 37 phone calls made from the plane.

Todd Beamer reached the Airfone operator at 9:44 a.m and noted the following—the flight had been hijacked, the captain and first officer are lying on the floor of the first class cabin either injured or possibly dead, one of the terrorists had a red belt with a bomb strapped to his waist, two hijackers with knives entered the cockpit and closed the door behind them, the plane was going up and down and has turned or changed direction, and he and the passengers were  planning something, then put the phone down.

Beamer and other passengers made plans to storm the cockpit and take the plane’s controls and subvert the hijacker’s plans. With an Airfone operator on the phone, it was reported that someone said, “Are you guys ready? Okay! Let’s roll!”

At 5,000 feet above sea level and in 2 minutes of rapid, left and right control wheel inputs resulting in multiple 30-degree rolls left and right. At 10:02 a.m., the plane began a rapid descent and the airplane rolled on its back. At 10:03 a.m., Flight 93 crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 563 miles per hours, about 20 minutes of flying time from Washington D.C.

Additional information from Wheaton College and the National Park Service.

Image from Friends of Flight 93