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'Let's roll' rallying cry sparks several Web sites

Sunday, November 04, 2001

Let's roll. "Ever since Todd Beamer uttered those words aboard United Airlines Flight 93, the phrase has taken on a life of its own. America has been inspired by the story of Beamer and other extraordinary ordinary folks taking on the hijackers in the sky above Western Pennsylvania, losing their own lives in the crash in Somerset County but saving God knows how many others somewhere else.

"Shouldn't there be T-shirts, banners, bumper stickers, etc., proclaiming this simple, yet dynamic, slogan?"

That's what Kathy Carilli of Bridgeville asked. She wrote to me in hopes I would contact the Beamer family to suggest the idea.

"My interest is only to give a shot in the arm to our current patriotism," Carilli wrote. Proceeds should go only to "the families of those brave individuals who selflessly brought down that plane."

Who could argue? So when I found there was a Todd M. Beamer Memorial Foundation, I went to its Web site via www.toddbeamer.org. I soon was on the phone with Doug MacMillan, who had quit his job in medical sales to direct the charity named for his best friend.

This nonprofit corporation intends to provide assistance to the children who lost parents on Flight 93, but when the foundation moved to trademark "let's roll," it found itself third in line. Two others had claimed Todd's rallying cry for clothing trademarks, and still others grabbed it for Internet sites. Look here:

" 'LET'S ROLL' is a not-for-profit private citizens organization that adopts the qualities, values and resolve of our Sept. 11 heroes."

That sounds great. But this organization at www.letsroll.org opened without any OK from Lisa Beamer, Todd's widow. Another organization has taken LetsRoll-America.com. Yet another man claimed "toddbeamer.com," but that proved to be a preventive strike. The man turned over the domain name to the Beamer organization as soon as it proved its legitimacy.

I e-mailed the Let's Roll America organization, which seeks to be "the eyes and ears of the Office of Homeland Security," and got an immediate response from its founder. Dick Lynch, 39, of Cincinnati is a father of four who says he wrote his manifesto "at 3:15 a.m. with a baby in my arms."

Lynch is now ready to do the right thing. If the Beamer organization wants the "letsroll" domain name, he said, "We'll do whatever Lisa wants us to do."

When I e-mailed LetsRoll America.com, Dianne Fox soon responded from her Colorado home. She and her husband have been planning to produce and sell patriotic clothing and donate a portion of the sales to the Twin Towers Orphan Fund. I told her that Anthony Noe, who had donated the name "todd-beamer.com" to the Beamer foundation, had challenged the "the owners of the other hero domains to take similar action."

"We have not been contacted by the foundation," Fox wrote back the next morning. "As far as the challenge, we have had less than 24 hours to research and make an informed decision. In the meantime, we wish the foundation the best of luck with their efforts and we look forward to hearing from them."

Paul Kennedy is the Philadelphia lawyer who is the point man protecting "let's roll" for the Beamers. These days, it's fun for Kennedy to go to work. Not only is his cause righteous, but the response also has been mostly great.

"We believe we own 'let's roll' because Todd said it and it was attributed to him," Kennedy said. "We're going to do all that's necessary to protect that."

When people find out the foundation exists, "We have seen a cooperative spirit." One guy on the Internet was enriching himself selling T-shirts with Beamer's picture on it; but when the foundation called the Web site, the vending stopped. Kennedy, 45, said he'd never seen anything quite like this before.

"I see people rush to claim intellectual property rights over campy items or the news du jour, if you will, the 'I can't believe I ate the whole thing' type of notoriety. But not as it relates to a national tragedy."

Kennedy said the foundation had no reason to believe that the other sites don't have the best intentions, but that it's clear the Beamer group is not going to roll over for anyone.

A post-script: Last Sunday's column on a dog named Blue brought a tremendous response. Look for the happy ending in tomorrow's column.

Brian O'Neill's e-mail address is boneill@post-gazette.com.

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