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Student Spotlight | 5 Minutes

VSA Student Essay | Foundations of Courage

VSA Student Essay | Foundations of Courage

Olivia Hill is a former Composition 1 and current Summer A Creative Writing student at Veritas Scholars Academy. She recently submitted the following essay and won IEW’s essay competition.

What defines courage? Many would picture battles between heroes, in which the heroes do not back down from the villain, even though they may have no small amount of trepidation. Others would picture the soldiers constantly charging Normandy beach, even as they watched their friends and comrades being shot down by German fire. It is easy to define and watch courage during movies, war situations, or literature. But what about the heroes in everyday life? Can the first responders who keep us safe be ignored? On a more basic level: the parents, siblings, grandparents, and mentors have a role to play in our lives, and are examples of courage in all situations. In the case of the Beamer family, it was their father, Todd.

September 11, 2001: a date which the U.S will commemorate forever. It affected the lives of all. On a usual and routine business flight to San Francisco from Chicago, Todd Beamer and the others were forcefully re-routed: four hijackers attacked the pilots and commandeered the plane. After this, the passengers began to hear rumours of the twin towers being hit, but nothing was confirmed. Forced to the back of the plane, by the phones, Todd Beamer made an urgent call to the operator. “Hello… Operator…listen to me…I can’t speak very loud. This is an emergency…We have a situation here….Our plane has been hijacked” (“The Transcript from Flight 93). He then courageously continued to talk on the line, regardless of the fact that the hijackers had already killed one passenger and possibly the pilots. Todd Beamer knew he had to get this vital information to an outside person who would contact the government.

He also showed courage in the way he faced the situation. He knew that he was probably going to die, so he begged the phone operator to do one last thing for him: call his wife, Lisa, and tell her what had happened. “ She’s pregnant with our 3rd child. Tell her that I love her…I’ll always love her…We have two boys.. David, he’s 3 and Andrew, he’s 1…..Tell them…tell them that their daddy loves them and that he is so proud of them” (Transcript from Flight 93). Even in the midst of a plane that had been taken over, his thoughts turned to his family. Yet he did not try to force his way out of the situation, even with an unborn child that he had not and would never meet. He set his eyes to the path ahead, and took whatever was sent his way

Perhaps the most courageous of his acts was this: before he and some other passengers formed a plan to storm the cockpit, he asked the phone operator to pray with him. They continued on to pray the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23. In the face of danger, he moved towards the one fortress he knew would never fail: God. It took more courage and strength to pray the words “thy will be done” in the face of death then it would be safe on the ground. He had rest, because he knew God would walk him through the “valley of the shadow of death” and help him “fear no evil.” Even the evil of the hijackers with the destruction of the World Trade Center: by this point, he had received the knowledge that the country was under attack. After praying, he turned to the other passengers and said the words he would become known for: “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll!” ( “Are You Guys Ready? Let’s Roll”)

He passed his courage onto his family. After knowing that her husband had died, Lisa Beamer stated, “reports of her husband's heroic role had ‘made my life worth living again.’” She also later stated that her children had picked up their father’s sayings: “My boys even say that. When we're getting ready to go somewhere, we say, ‘C’mon guys, let's roll.’ My little one says, ‘C’mon, Mom, let's roll.’ That's something they picked up from Todd” (“Are You Guys Ready? Let’s Roll). Because of his courageous act, he saved countless other people. Even though he had family waiting at home, he was not about to be pushed into a corner and trapped there. He fought back.

It will bring many tears to a reader’s eyes when they listen or read the transcript of Flight 93 for the first time: Todd’s unwavering devotion, the way he chokes up when talking about his family, his eventual last words. I learned that courage is not always charging a beach full of soldiers shooting back at you, or storming a fortress like a mighty hero: sometimes, it is as simple as standing up to a bully, or speaking up when something is not right. Another valuable thing to learn from him is the way to truly pray, “Thy will be done,” to hold fast to our faith.

In her book, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee makes this comment: “Real courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” Todd Beamer lived this to the fullest. He didn’t let hijackers or death get in the way of his family or his faith. Lisa Beamer, his wife, stated “Todd built his life on a firm foundation so that when the storm came on September 11, he didn’t have to check the blueprints to see if everything he had built his life on was going to stand. He knew” (“Remembering Todd Beamer”). May we all know how to build our courage on such a foundation.

Works Cited

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York City, HarperCollins, 1988. Accessed 6 April 2023.

“Remembering Todd Beamer.” Wheaton Academy, Accessed 5 April 2023.

September 12th, Eternity News, and 2021 11:40 AM | Add a Comment. “The Transcript from Flight 93 - Eternity News.” Eternity News, 12 September 2021, Accessed 5 April 2023.

“The Phone Line from Flight 93 Was Still Open When a GTE Operator Heard Todd Beamer Say: “Are You Guys Ready? Let’s Roll.””, sp. Accessed 5 April 2023