Like so many others, Steve Clum could only watch in horror as the news following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks came out.
Four airplanes had been hijacked and nearly 3,000 people had been killed. The symbols of financial and military strength in America, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, respectively, had been hit.
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But one group of passengers managed to overtake the hijackers and thwart what some suspect was meant to be an attack on the White House. The passengers of United Flight 93 flew the plane into an empty field near Shanksville, Pa.
A group of people to be proud of, sure, recalls Clum, the head of Wheaton Christian Grammar School in Winfield. However, he soon learned that on that flight was Wheaton resident Todd Beamer, Class of 1983 and the son of a family Clum had become close to throughout the years.
In the weeks that followed, the news broke that Beamer had been one of the leaders of the passengers when he uttered his now-famous phrase, "Let's roll,"
"I was in tears," Clum said. "We were all in shock but not surprised by Todd's actions. It's exactly how I remember him. He was selfless. He looked out for others, and that came through beautifully on Flight 93."
On Saturday, Sept. 10, Clum will be near Shanksville for the dedication of the Flight 93 National Memorial that honors the passengers and crew members of that flight. He hopes to share stories of his former student, just as he did in the weeks and months that followed the terror attacks.
Clum said he will attend the ceremony to honor Beamer's life and to show respect to all of the heroes. Additionally, he says he will share with attendees the connection Beamer had with his religion.
"I am excited to be able to pay tribute to all of those involved," Clum said. "It's critical to continue his legacy and memory of his life and the memory of what Todd and those on Flight 93 did. They are heroes and we cannot forget them."
The destruction of the Pentagon and World Trade Center on that Tuesday morning was followed by news that a fourth plane had crashed into an abandoned field near Shanksville.
Later, phone records and recordings revealed Beamer had tried to call home from aboard the plane but instead was rerouted to an operator in Oak Brook.
While on the phone, Beamer said the passengers had voted on their course of action and had decided to try to overtake the hijackers, one of whom claimed to have a bomb strapped to his chest.
Just before he hung up the phone, Beamer could be heard asking other passengers, "Are you ready? Let's roll."
But before he did, he recited the Lord's Prayer with the operator. It was a gesture that Clum said illustrated his faith and that he had taken the lessons he learned at the school forward.
"For us as a school, we are proud of Todd, proud of what he stood for and proud of the man he had become," he said. "We are humbled by his actions he took on that flight. It speaks to his character and how brave he was as a man and as a Christian."