Though most high school students were not yet born when the Sept. 11 terror attacks occurred, Todd Beamer High School students in Federal Way have a connection to the tragic events and incredible heroism of that day.
David and Peggy Beamer spoke at a memorial event at Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way in honor of the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and the heroism of their son Todd Beamer on Friday, Sept. 10.
“It really touched my heart. Most of us weren’t really around when 9/11 happened, but hearing Mr. Beamer’s words and how he talked to us about what his son was like before the event and how he was just a normal person like all of us, but he had the courage and thought to go and do something so selfless,” said student Faith Kim. “It was such a huge hurdle for our country and inspired this entire school. It was really great that we heard the entire story.”
Todd Beamer was one of the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93, one of the planes that was hijacked as part of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. All 40 passengers died when Flight 93 crashed in rural Pennsylvania.
Todd and his wife, Lisa, returned from a vacation to Italy on Sept. 10, and Todd boarded the plane the following day for a business trip from Newark to San Francisco.
Todd, who sold software for Oracle, planned to return to Newark after that trip to have breakfast the next morning with Lisa and their two young boys (their daughter was born four months after his death). Todd earned the trip to Italy because he was Oracle’s top sales performer.
Todd Beamer is credited with leading a group of passengers who attacked the hijackers and foiled their attempt to crash the plane into a target in Washington, D.C.
Associated Student Body President Faith Kim led the Beamers on a school tour with Principal Chris McCrummen and FWPS Superintendent Dr. Dani Pfeiffer on Sept. 10.
During the tour, the Beamers paused in silent reflection at the school’s honor wall featuring quotes and pictures of Todd before the memorial ceremony.
The event began with a drumming performance by the school’s Native Education Program who also presented the Beamers with a traditional blanket, a common bereavement practice to recognize mourning and moving forward.
David Beamer spoke about his last visit to the school in 2015 and the last time he saw Todd before 9/11.
“My last memory with Todd was two-and-a-half weeks before I lost him, and I didn’t know that was the last time I was going to see him,” David Beamer said. “We had a hug, and I said, ‘I love you Beam, be careful, see you later.’ That was my last memory of my son, and my counteroffer is to make a good memory every day.”
He encouraged the students to adopt key characteristics of self-responsibility, positive attitude, commitment, balance, enthusiasm, integrity, and a sense of humor.
A small group of Todd Beamer students attended the event in person while the rest of the student body viewed the ceremony from classrooms through a live stream. The event was closed to the public.
“Let’s Roll, do the right thing, at the right time,” David Beamer said. “It’s been a privilege for you to have me back here with you. Thank you very much for the special honor and the tradition of wrapping us in love, health, and hope … Let’s roll!”
How school got its name
Todd Beamer High School is one of three buildings in the nation named after Beamer. A post office in New Jersey and a building at Wheaton College are also named after him.
Nearly 1,000 future Todd Beamer students voted from a list of five possible names for the new high school before the name Todd Beamer was chosen in 2002. Federal Way School Board policy stated that the school had to be named after a deceased national hero. Among other names considered were aviator Amelia Earhart and Abraham Lincoln.
Carol Everhart, a retired principal of Todd Beamer who served on the name-selection committee, said she supported the name Todd Beamer. The school opened in 2003 when the terrorist attacks and Todd Beamer’s story were fresh in everybody’s minds.
“This was a peer that the students related to, a contemporary that was part of their time and a part of the history that they were living,” Everhart said. “He was a hero with a strong moral history and it was excellent role modeling for our students.”
Reporter Andy Nystrom contributed to this story.