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U.S. News
Lisa Beamer: Widow of Flight 93's Todd Beamer

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

By Cindi Lash, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Standing in a borrowed black maternity dress while President Bush and the nation applauded her in the U.S. Capitol, she became forever the embodiment of her husband's rallying cry, "Let's Roll."

In the year since Todd Beamer died in the crash of United Flight 93, Lisa Beamer has visited the White House, appeared before Congress and handled interviews with Oprah, Katie and Larry with calmness and poise.

She "completed" her husband's final flight to boost trust in airline security and, with friends, set up the Todd M. Beamer Foundation to help children who were victimized by last Sept. 11. Fighting back her own grief, she has struggled to keep life positive for her two young sons, David, 4, and Drew, 2, and the dark-haired daughter, Morgan, who was born in January.

Somehow in that year, she also found time and strength to write a book -- titled with her husband's now-famous mantra, "Let's Roll" -- despite her initial suspicion that no one would be interested in her thoughts. "No way. I don't have the answers for other people," she said when others first broached the idea. "There's nothing here."

But she changed her mind after receiving thousands of letters, e-mails, packages and gifts from people who had been moved by the fight of Flight 93's passengers to regain control of the hijacked plane -- and by Todd Beamer's expression of his Christian faith as he prayed with a GTE Airfone operator before leading that effort.

That faith, which Lisa Beamer shares, helps her to trust that heartbreaking catastrophes are part of God's plan -- even when she cannot understand why God would allow those events to happen or what possible good could emerge from them. It is the message that she now strives to share in her life, in her frequent public appearances and in her book, released last month.

After Sept. 11, she said, "I got lots of letters from other women who'd lost husbands, their children -- women who'd struggled. Tragedy is not new and their stories were so encouraging to me," said Beamer, 33. "My motives in all this weren't to glorify myself, or even to glorify Todd. If I can offer hope to someone else, I want to be a part of that."

Widespread news coverage of her speaking engagements and book promotion events made it appear that she's been "here, there, everywhere" in the last year. Her high profile, at least initially, triggered some resentment among other Flight 93 families.

But she said her appearances have been relegated to "a really small window of my life," and her first priority is to be at home, providing security and comfort for her children.

"We are doing mostly what we would be doing otherwise," she said. "There are questions and hard times and we will be dealing with grief for a long time. But we will deal with it."

Beamer said she lacks the technical knowledge or power to advocate for specific actions in the nation's ongoing response to terrorism.

"But I know we need to make improvements in the intelligence side of things," she said. "I know we can do a better job than we did last Sept. 11."

A self-described former neatnik and habitual list-maker, Beamer said she no longer makes long-term plans for her family. Now she lives in "small chunks," looking no further than the next day or two.

She trusts that God will help her to do that, but admits that sometimes she's wept alone in her husband's closet, her prayers laced with frustration or anger. Her worries can run from the profound to the mundane: How best to help her children cope with grief? How will she help them all with homework when they are older?

"There are times when I ask God, 'Just how am I supposed to do this?' But in a very desperate situation, I can go to God and be honest and blunt with my emotions," she said. "It's a tightrope walk every day, dealing with grief and joy."

The joy comes, she said, from many people who've told her they were spurred to re-evaluate and change their lives after hearing about Flight 93. Those people are tangible examples of good resulting from evil, reminding her that "there is a bigger picture here."

"God knew that this would be so painful and difficult for me, but I also know that God is committed to being with me every step of the way," she said.

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