Todd Beamer's father told Wheaton Academy students Tuesday that the school deserves credit for some of his son's value system and that they should use Todd's now-famous phrase, "Let's roll," as a call to positive action in life.
At a brief ceremony at the West Chicago private school, David Beamer and his wife, Peggy, unveiled a commemorative plaque for the 1987 graduate. Todd Beamer was among the passengers credited with taking down United Flight 93 near Shanksville, Pa., on Sept. 11, 2001.
Some suspect the plane had been headed to the White House and would have served as the fourth attack on that day, along with one at the Pentagon and two others at the World Trade Center's in New York City.
"The last two words the world knows Todd said were, 'Let's roll,'" David said. "In that circumstance, it was a call to action. At that circumstance, it happened to be the beginning of a counter attack ... (but) it also represented absolutely the right thing to do."
Beamer attended the ceremony after a whirlwind weekend of commemorating the 10th anniversary of the attacks at locations across the country. He has long been outspoken on the war on terror, which he says is an attempt by extremists to change U.S. law to more align with their religion.
"We cannot lose our will about the realities of the threat," he said.
As time passes, Beamer said, it will become more important to teach future generations about what happened on Sept. 11, 2001.
After visiting the future location of a memorial in Shanksville, Beamer said the site offers an understated, yet reverential, setting to teach those lessons.
"We already have a generation that was not born that day," he said. "There is a lot of space to reflect as well as a place to get responsibly close to the battle ground and the burial ground."
Leading up to the ceremony, the students watched a nine-minute video that had been put together for them about Todd Beamer.
Head of School Gene Frost said the video illustrates that Todd wasn't really spectacular other than his penchant for making the right decisions.
"The thing about Todd is that every student here can see themselves being a Todd," he said. "He was just a regular kid. He wasn't a superstar athlete, wasn't a superstar academically but just solid in all of the areas."
For Frost, the small memorial on the school's grounds provides a chance to keep Beamer's memory alive.
"Ceremony and symbol, we teach that how important that is," he said. "These memorial stones, when your children ask why it's there, you are going to tell the story."
Kenny Hass, 17, said his father played on the same soccer team as Todd Beamer. After watching the elder Beamer speak, he said what stood out was the reminder that "Let's roll" should be accompanied with positive thoughts about faith and values.
"This is a very solemn occasion but it's also an occasion when we can rejoice and remember Todd Beamer," he said.
As Beamer spoke, he heaped high praise on the school and said it contributed greatly to the value system that led to Todd's confidence during the hijacking.
"A great part of the development of this man, Todd Beamer, was because of the experience he had right here," David said. "Walking the grounds, including the soccer field, and the baseball field and the basketball court and the classrooms ... had much to do with the reinforcement and with helping Todd Beamer become Todd Beamer."