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New Book Details September 11 Hijacking - 2002-08-23


The last moments aboard one of the hijacked jets that crashed on September 11th were marked by a frenzied struggle as passengers and crewmembers tried to overpower the hijackers. New details have emerged in a book by the widow of one of the passengers, Todd Beamer. Lisa Beamer was in Los Angeles to meet with readers.

After terrorists commandeered his aircraft, Todd Beamer and his fellow passengers and crew members tried to overpower them with a food cart and pots of boiling water, while the hijackers tried to cut off the plane's oxygen and break into the cockpit. Those details are recounted in Lisa Beamer's new book, called Let's Roll! Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage.

The widow based her account on cockpit recordings, which she has heard but which have not been released to the public, and on cell phone conversations between passengers and their loved ones. A telephone operator reported that Ms. Beamer's husband said "Let's Roll" in a hurried call before the passengers apparently fought back against the hijackers. Lisa Beamer says those words are typical of her husband, who would always take positive action in a crisis.

Todd Beamer was a 32-year-old account executive for Oracle Corporation and he has been hailed as a hero. President Bush called him an "exceptional man."

Two other hijacked aircraft struck the World Trade Center in New York September 11, and a third hit the Pentagon outside Washington. Authorities believe the hijackers intended to divert Flight 93, which was en route from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco, to a target in Washington, possibly the White House. Instead, it crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, shortly after passengers rushed to front of the airplane.

Lisa Beamer was in Los Angeles to attend a reception and book signing. She was also promoting a new foundation in honor of her husband. "The purpose of the foundation is to help children who have been through some sort of family trauma, that we will be able to partner with them and help them use that trauma as a character-building experience for them so that they will be able to make choices in their life similar to what Todd made," she said.

Ms. Beamer says the action that Todd and his fellow passengers took was an act of courage in the face of uncertainty.

For the 33-year-old mother of three, the unaccustomed spotlight is a bit uncomfortable. She was surrounded by admirers at a crowded Los Angeles bookstore. "I feel very out of my element," said Lisa Beamer. "This is not something I ever intended to do and I ever thought would be part of my life, but it is nice meeting people face to face and listening to their stories and listening to how Todd's story has encouraged them. And I'm thankful for that."

One Los Angeles man named Ben was standing at the back of the bookstore, nearly overcome by emotion. "Well, I came to hear Lisa Beamer speak, to hear her and to honor her and to honor her husband," he said. "So I thought I'd walk up to her and just tell her that I honor her. But I know I won't be able to do that without crying. It's almost a year later and I still kind of get emotional when I think about what her husband did."

Todd Beamer was one of 44 people killed when his plane crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. More than 3,000 others died in the terrorist attacks September 11.

Part of VOA's Series on The Anniversary of the September 11 Terrorist Attacks

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