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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Let's Roll! Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage

Marking September 11 seemed as good a reason as any to read Let's Roll! Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage, written by Lisa Beamer. Her husband Todd was one of the passengers who fought back against the hijackers of the United Airlines flight that crashed in Pennsylvania on that terror-filled day. This book, written in 2002, is their story.

Mrs. Beamer comes across as honest and unpretentious, simply "a mom and a housewife from a small town in New Jersey." Though this is her first-hand account, much of the success of the book must go to the co-author Ken Abraham. It is structured well and presented in easily digestable chapters. Despite knowing the outcome, we wanted to keep turning the pages. We read the whole thing in just a day and a half.

The book opens with the events of September 11, 2001. The narrative then shifts to the early life of Todd Beamer. The early life of Lisa follows. Their life together leads back to the opening of the book. The rest is Mrs. Beamer's experience following the death of her husband.

Though she reveals as much as she knows about Flight 93, and the role her husband and several others played in bringing the terrorists down, there are other books that give more-detailed accounts. To our surprise, this book was rather a story of inspiration. This is an account of Mrs. Beamer's strength in dealing with the tragedy.

Thanks certainly to Mr. Abraham's guidance, this turns out to be a story of how God operates throughout Mrs. Beamer's life. She did not discover faith as a way of coping. Her faith was the foundation that helped her weather the storm. She had always found God present in her life, and by her actions, just as her husband did, she honored that presence.

Fewer than three months after Todd's death, Lisa faced his birthday without him. Even while she tried to carry on for her children, she struggled with pain and grief. Her oldest son was concerned.
I attempted to explain. "Mommy is sad because Daddy isn't with us on his birthday," I said, wiping the tears from my eyes.

In his inimitable innocence, David looked up at me and asked, "But, Mom, we can still have cake, can't we?"
In many ways, this book is like another we read earlier in the year, Leap of Faith, by Queen Noor. They both are biographies of a sort about a deceased husband. The work of God is a strong theme in both. And though each deals with tragic events, the message of both Lisa Beamer and Queen Noor is one of hope, inspiration, and strength.

Another special woman noted recently that we have to look forward to all the good things that we have right here with us and around us, not look back and think about what we might be missing. These stories teach us that life doesn't begin when we see each other, or when our debts are finally settled, or when we are home again. Life is what we make it right now.

Let's all go enjoy a piece of cake.


  1. Jeff, interesting topic. The book you read seems to offer a different perspective than the kinds of stories we usually see about 9/11 (for instance, Jere Longman's Among the Heroes). It's not easy reading and it can't be easy writing. Thanks for the review. You are missed on CC.


    (actually I'm Eric, but that was my verification code for this comment, and it sounded like the name of someone who'd be a friend of Quillhill)

  2. A clarification from Zympungl . . .

    Jeff, after a long delay this came to my inbox recently:

    I believe we met in Quill's first term at the university. I had just returned after an unexplained absence of three years and re-enrolled with a triple major in mortuary science, clock repair, and kecak. Our first encounter was at a silent film festival on the nocturnal Ecuadorian rainforest at which Quill failed to stop my snoring, despite attempts that culminated in pouring a large cherry Icee down my shirt. The next day when I got up to speak at the provost's memorial service with my neck blazing scarlet, he was the only person who laughed. And I knew I had my man.