Let’s Roll: Remembering faith, family, and freedom

by Calli Newberry

My dad once told me that beside accepting Christ as his savior, marrying my mom, and having kids, attending Wheaton College was the best decision he ever made. 

As a two-sport athlete there, he accumulated concussions, broken cheek bones, and a separated shoulder but he’d still say it was all worth it. He made lifelong friends and learned lifelong lessons, all of which have helped make him who he is today. 

Every year he’d get a Wheaton College football highlight DVD in the mail and my brothers would get so excited. They’d pop it in and run around the house with plastic helmets on their heads and little footballs in their arms. Wheaton football was a big deal in our house. 

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At the beginning of the DVD, it would show the players exiting the locker room, and each one of them would slap a small, orange and blue sign above the doorway. It said, “Let’s Roll.” It was exciting and inspiring. 

“Let’s Roll” was something my dad would say to us as we all tried to file out of our house or when we’d set out to do a project. I always thought it was just something he said because he said it in college as I had seen on the DVDs. 

But when we were older, he told us what those two words really represented. They were words that belonged to Todd Beamer, one of my dad’s teammates on the Wheaton baseball team. He told us when and why Beamer said those two words and I no longer view them as a simple phrase. 

Beamer was on United Flight 93 when it was overtaken by terrorists on September 11, 2011. Twenty years ago today thousands of people lost their lives in one of the most tragic events in our country’s history. Hundreds, maybe thousands more, would have died if it weren’t for Beamer and the other brave men and women on that flight. 

Two planes had already crashed into the World Trade Center, and a third had hit the Pentagon. Flight 93 was claimed to be on target for the Capitol. After hearing of the other attacks and realizing their plane had also been hijacked, the passengers onboard did everything they could to deter the plane from its target. They succeeded in their attempt, as they instead crashed into a southern Pennsylvania field, but they also lost their lives. 

They left behind family, friends, careers, dreams — everything — all in an effort to protect our country. 

As the passengers formed a plan to stop the hijackers, Beamer made a call from the plane and was connected to an Airfone customer service agent. He informed the agent of the circumstance and their plan of attack, and then asked her to say the Lord’s Prayer with him. He also asked that she would tell his family how much he loved them. Then he said his last known words, “Let’s Roll.”

In one of the most terrible situations, Beamer not only leaned into his faith through prayer, but witnessed to everyone around him. He showed love to his family in the only way he could in that moment, leaving them with no doubt of his care for them. And he valued the freedom our country has and represents to the rest of the world through sacrifice. 

The last hour of Todd Beamer’s life represented the values on which our country was founded, and it inspires us to live every hour of our lives with those values in mind. 

“Let’s Roll” carries a lot of weight when we remember it in its original context. It was a phrase said by a man in the middle of chaos and upheaval, a man who’d soon be facing the end. Yet those two words have such a confidence about them. 

“Let’s Roll” means we’re ready for whatever lies ahead. It means we’ll give all we have for the greater good and we’ll do it with pride. It means a clear vision when everything is uncertain, and peace in knowing we’re doing what’s right. And it means doing what we believe is right even when it’s hard.

“Let’s Roll” are two words to live by if it means living like the example of Todd Beamer.

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