A year ago September 11, Lisa Beamer was a media nobody�practically a stigma in today’s American Idol Real World Funniest Home Videos Bachelor Dating Contest Survivor world. Of all the people whose lives were changed on that day, perhaps hers was changed the most.
Lisa Beamer, who has since been publicly applauded by the President, the Congress, and the media, is Todd Beamer’s wife… Todd Beamer, a United Airlines Flight 93 passenger who recited the Our Father along with a cell phone operator and then said “Let’s roll” to his fellow passengers as they overpowered their captors, protecting sacred national monuments, saving lives. The terrorists in control of the plane, under the impression that they were forfeiting their lives for a higher purpose, were about to receive a primary education in what self-sacrifice truly entails.
Lisa would be the ultimate “get” for this anniversary�the big interview the networks are salivating for. Her fifteen minutes of fame tick on, but I suspect she would very happily trade it all for a handful of seconds with her husband.
And what is she doing on this first anniversary?
“My son’s preschool is having open house on that day,” she explained, “so that’s where I’ll be.”
How simple. How perfect. She could have Barbara Walters’ full attention and hugs from Alan Jackson and the snapping flashes of every media outlet on the planet, but she is at home, with her son, who needs her.
Her life continues.
It doubtless staggers in sharp, grief-stricken lines, but it continues. Her son’s preschool is having open house on that day, so that is where she is. The void of her husband will be felt and it will be acknowledged, but it will not catapult her out of the ordinary, day-to-day American life that the men who took her husband’s life were bent on destroying.
Just as Todd Beamer stood in silence outside a barricaded cockpit door, poised to offer his own life in exchange for those of a greater number of unknowing innocents on the ground, Lisa Beamer quietly leads the charge in a proper and dignified recognition of September 11th.
The American memory is short and the temptation to drown our respects in a day off, beer, and Tupperware pulses everywhere. Did we actually stop to appreciate labor laws on Labor Day, or were we smacking the steering wheel in disgust because the bank was closed and we were late with the chips?
Where were we last Memorial Day�the day supposedly set aside to remember those who shed their own blood to protect our misused, abused, and carelessly appreciated freedoms? How many of us actually stopped by a cemetery, said a prayer, or hoisted a flag? Far more frequently, we mark these days with barbecues, drink-and-drown pool parties, and white sales (my personal favorite from this year’s newspaper ad stack: “This Memorial Day, we’re celebrating your freedom�FROM HIGH PRICES!!!!!”)
September 11th, once ordinary, now holy, doesn’t deserve that.
So, go. Go to work and go to school and go to the mall. Spend and shove on. Be silent, grieving, and grateful for a few moments around the nine o’clock hour-but be American. That is what the victims were doing on that terrible day, and the best way to remember them is to continue in their workaday footsteps. There is great honor in the quiet comfort of the everyday.