Todd Beamer helped secure the first U.S. victory in the war against terrorism, one of his former teachers said Sunday.
Beamer, a former Wheaton resident, was a passenger on United Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001. He and his fellow passengers became national heroes when they foiled four hijackers' attempts to fly the plane into a target in Washington, D.C. -- presumably the U.S. Capitol building. Instead, the plane crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pa., killing everyone on board.
"The plane was only 18 minutes from Washington," said Roger Burgess, who taught and coached Beamer during Beamer's time at Wheaton Christian Grammar School. "How many lives did Todd and the other passengers save that day? We'll never know."
Beamer was remembered during a commemoration ceremony Sunday honoring the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The ceremony was held at Glenbard North High School in Carol Stream, one of many memorials services held Sunday in DuPage County and across the country.
Burgess described Beamer as a quiet young man who, even in his middle-school years, displayed a unique inner strength. He said it was this strength, and Beamer's devout religious faith, that gave him the courage to try to overtake his plane's hijackers 10 years ago. (Beamer's last known words, "Let's roll," became a national catchphrase after the attacks.)
Another local victim of the attacks, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Dan Shanower, was remembered at the ceremony in Naperville, his hometown. Shanower was working at the Pentagon when he and seven other intelligence personnel were killed in the Sept. 11 attack on that building.
U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Richard Porterfield, Shanower's supervisor, said Shanower was considered a "rising star" in naval intelligence, known for his zest for life and his gift for leadership.
"He was a fun-loving guy, but also a peerless professional," Porterfield said during Sunday's service. "He died much too young. He was destined for much higher positions."
Shanower grew up in Naperville and graduated from Naperville Central High School. His parents, Pat and Don, attended Sunday's service, which took place at the memorial site that bears their son's name.
Porterfield said that while Shanower's career was cut tragically short, his spirit lives on in the younger Navy officers who were working under him in 2001. Many of those, he said, now hold positions of leadership in the Navy.