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U.S. News
Flight 93 widow visits Quaker Valley school

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

By Marylynne Pitz, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

As Lisa Beamer left Quaker Valley Middle School in Sewickley yesterday, she carried a small, silver pin from Lacey Gerle, an eighth-grade pupil.

Lisa Beamer, whose husband died aboard United Airlines Flight 93 when it crashed Sept. 11 in Somerset County, visits the "Hall of Heroes" created at Quaker Valley Middle School as a tribute to those killed aboard the hijacked aircraft. (John Beale, Post-Gazette)

Gerle gave Beamer the pin -- which shows an airplane, the number 93 and the phrase, "Let's Roll!" -- just before an hour-long ceremony in the school auditorium.

Beamer's husband, Todd, died in the Sept. 11 crash of United Airlines Flight 93 and made that now-famous comment before he and other passengers tried to wrest control of the plane from hijackers.

"The least I could do was to give her the pin. She gave her husband. I just thought she would get a lot more meaning out of it," said Gerle, a 14-year-old Sewickley teen-ager.

Similar pins were sold at an auction, one of many events pupils organized this past year to raise $20,000. Yesterday, they gave Lisa Beamer a $16,100 check for the Todd W. Beamer Foundation.

Lisa Beamer established the foundation after Flight 93 crashed into a field in Stonycreek, Somerset County, killing all 40 passengers and crew and the four hijackers. The foundation plans to provide health care and psychological services to children who lost parents Sept. 11 and those who face similar situations in the future.

A petite, articulate woman dressed in a black pants suit, Beamer addressed an auditorium packed with pupils, teachers and parents yesterday afternoon.

Beamer recalled hosting a barbecue at her New Jersey home last month on Memorial Day. While greeting guests and keeping an eye on the grill, Beamer noticed that 20 children were playing on the swing set, slide and sand box in her yard.

"This is a wonderful day to be a kid," Beamer thought to herself. "Then I realized that each and every one of those kids lost a parent on Sept. 11," she said, her voice breaking with emotion.

Regaining her composure quickly, Beamer told the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders that the children who lost parents on Sept. 11 have "real faces and real needs and real holes in their lives. You did know that and you reached out to them."

Todd Beamer has been called a hero but, "He never would have defined himself that way," she said, adding that a hero is someone willing to sacrifice himself for the good of others.

The pupils' yearlong efforts included visits to veterans, a bake sale, collecting gifts for the disabled, sending cards to children in New York City, sponsoring a tumbler sale, a pot luck dinner, a faculty basketball game and a giant yard sale.

All those efforts, Beamer said, show that "You all have a desire to be heroes."

Beamer said she has received letters from people who knew her husband when he was in high school, where he was a gifted student, athlete, popular with peers and kind to everyone.

Beamer urged pupils to consider how their daily actions shape their classmates' impressions of them. Talented children can help classmates who struggle to learn or befriend someone outside their circle, she said.

Beamer urged the pupils to ask themselves a question:

"How would these people describe me when I'm 32 years old? Who you are right now is going to define who you are in the future. We will always need heroes, each and every day."

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