Doug MacMillan, whose best friend Todd Beamer died heroically on United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001, will share his story at a 9/11 remembrance event at the Ronald Reagan Lodge at Voice of America Park in West Chester next Sunday at 4 p.m. on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
On Sept. 11, ten years ago, MacMillan was on his way to work when he turned on the radio and was “overwhelmed” by what he heard. Two planes had just crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, while a third crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
MacMillan, a resident of Cranbury, N.J., located about 50 miles south of Manhattan, got off at a nearby exit to watch television coverage of what was taking place.
“As all this was happening, it dawned on me that Todd was getting on a flight and that my wife was flying. It was just one of those surreal moments,” MacMillan said.
“Seeing what was going on and trying to grasp everything was unimaginable.”
Eventually, he did get a hold of his wife, Chivon, whose flight from Germany to Newark, N.J., had landed in Greenland. That was when he told her that Todd’s flight crashed in Pennsylvania.
“I couldn’t be there to tell her in person and I didn’t want her to see it on the news. She had just been with them (Todd and his wife, Lisa) on a flight the week before,” he said.
Todd (photo – left) and other members of United Airlines Flight 93 were featured all over the news, as they heroically attempted to regain control of their airplane after al-Qaeda terrorists took it over Sept. 11.
During the flight, Beamer spoke to a GTE supervisor for 13 minutes on the plane’s in-flight telephone, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
According to that story, Beamer told the supervisor, Lisa D. Jefferson, what had happened, what was currently going on and what he and other passengers intended to do on the plane, which was to “jump on” the hijacker wearing a bomb.
He then dropped the phone. That was when Jefferson heard him famously say, “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll!”
Shortly after those words, the plane crashed near Shanksville, Pa., killing all 40 passengers and crew on board.
“I did an interview right after it happened and a gentleman asked me, ‘why didn’t Todd do anything? How come, with all these stories of passengers calling home and talking to their loved ones, why didn’t Todd do that?’” MacMillan recalled.
“Todd wouldn’t have called his wife and put her in a panic. Todd was the type of guy that was going to do the right thing at the right time. He was the type of guy who would say ‘not today, not on my plane, this is what we are going to do – who is with me?’”
The story of Flight 93 inspired MacMillan to create the Todd Beamer Foundation to honor his friend’s memory and others who died on 9/11. The organization has grown and was transitioned into a group called Heroic Choices when MacMillan left in 2004.
“The type of person Todd was on 9/11 was the same type of person he was before that. He was a man of great character, courage and faith,” said MacMillan, who met Beamer on his church’s softball team. “There were a lot of people with great character on that plane … it was actually kind of awe-inspiring to know that he was the same guy that I knew, acting that day.”
A national memorial will be dedicated to the heroes of United Airlines Flight 93 Sept. 10, 2011, at the crash site near Shanksville. It will be one of many events that will take place across the United States this month to honor the heroes of 9/11 and the nation’s military.
“I think it is important that people not only remember the individual people who gave their lives, but also what it meant that day to us as Americans, what it meant to us as human beings and how it significantly changed us,” MacMillan said.
“There is always another event that kind of diminishes events that happened before it and I think it is important that we don’t allow that to happen. I think we need to remember the sacrifices from 9/11 and make sure they are not forgotten.”
For more information about the 9/11 remembrance event, visit WestChesterBuzz.com’s post “Doug MacMillan to speak at 9-11 event at VOA Park.”