2016-06-30
Lisa JeffersonHow did you happen to be the one to take the call from Todd Beamer on 9/11?

Taking the Call
I was the supervisor over the call center in Oakbrook, Illinois, for Verizon Airfone, and someone had just come into the call center and asked me if I heard about the two planes that had just crashed into the World Trade Center and at that point, I told her no. And I said, “Two planes?” I said to myself, that didn’t sound like a mistake. You know, it sounded like it was meant for a purpose. As I stepped out of my office, I probably took six steps, and then I was stopped by a representative that received the actual phone call from Todd in flight. She called me over to her station and told me that she had a gentleman on her line and his plane was being hijacked. I asked her information that I needed to report to our surveillance center. And by the time I came back, she appeared to be traumatized, and that’s when I told her I would take the call over…I was asking her additional information and she wasn’t answering me. She was just dazed.

And so I actually lifted her up out of her seat and put her in the seat next to me, and I put her headset on and took her call over.

How did you manage to stay calm?

'Todd Was Calm'
Well, you know, Todd, when he came to me, he was calm. When he told me his plane was being hijacked—when I took the call over, I said my name was Mrs. Jefferson and I understand your plane is being hijacked. And he asked me if I knew what they wanted--was it ransom money or what. But he was calm through the entire conversation, and I tried to stay just as calm with him. He got a little scared when the plane took a dive. He raised his voice. But he stayed calm through the entire conversation. He made me doubt the severity of the call.

I could just not believe this was actually happening. And I had to look at the screen. We have monitors that let us know if they are in flight or on the ground and what airline and flight information. And everything he was telling me was adding up. I could hear the commotion in the background and after we continued to talk, I’m thinking to myself, this is for real. This is a real hijacking situation. At one point, he thought I had left the phone. I told him I was still here. He was calling out my name and I didn’t want to lose his call. I told him I would be there for him. And I stayed ‘til the end.

One of the most moving things that most people learned about this was when you prayed the Lord’s Prayer with Todd. I know it brought his family a lot of comfort.

Yes, it did. His wife called me a pillar of strength and told me that she was glad that I was the one to take the call and to be on the other end and to be there for her husband.

It’s remarkable that you had the presence of mind to be able to pray with Todd.

A lot of people told me that they wouldn’t have been able to do it, but I guess, God just works in mysterious ways, and I can only say that’s why he used me because I made myself available to him.

When did you realize that you and Todd’s wife had the same first name?

Sharing His Wife's Name
When the plane took a dive. And like I said, when I took the call over, I introduced myself as Mrs. Jefferson, but when the plane took a dive and he thought they were going down, he hollered, Lisa! And I had a look on my face like, how’d he know my first name? I’m sure I answered as Mrs. Jefferson. And then I said, “Yes?” And he said, “Oh, I’m sorry. That’s my wife’s name.” And at that point, I knew we held the same name and I just—it was just so many coincidences that we had. At that point, I knew that his wife’s name was Lisa and when I told him my name was Lisa also, he said, “Oh, my God.” He couldn’t believe it.

And at Verizon Airfone, when we went to call the authorities and the FBI to report this to the emergency center, the emergency operator’s name was also named Lisa.

That’s why I said this was all planned. You know, it was just something in God’s hands that he had a plan.

What happened after he said what actually turned out to be his last words, which were, “Let’s roll"?

'Let's Roll'
After he said, “Let’s roll,” he left the phone and I would assume that’s at the point that they went to charge the cockpit. And I was still on the line and the plane took a dive and by then, it just went silent. I held on until after the plane crashed—probably about 15 minutes longer and I never heard a crash—it just went silent because—I can’t explain it. We didn’t lose a connection because there’s a different sound that you use. It’s a squealing sound when you lose a connection. I never lost connection, but it just went silent.

 It seemed like you had to be taken off the phone.


I just could not believe that that plane had crashed because we never gave up hope. We both just talked about them landing their plane safely, he gave me personal information regarding him and his family. And people in the company started gathering around me in the call center because they knew I was on the phone with one of the planes that was being hijacked. And at the time when the plane crashed, they had announced over the radio that United Airlines Flight 93 had just crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and a guy put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Lisa, you can release the line now. That was his plane.” And I said, “No way.” And I kept calling his name and calling his name, hoping that he--just praying that anyone would come and pick up the phone. But they never did. But I just did not want to give up. I just felt that somebody was going to pick up that phone, and eventually I gave in and I hung the phone up.

How were you affected?

I grieved just like the families did, and I was in therapy for a while after that. Seems like I cried for months every day. It happened on a Tuesday. I went back to work on that Wednesday, Thursday, just like as if nothing had ever happened, and on that Friday, when I went into work, the FBI did not want me to mention anything to his wife until they got back in touch with me. And then Friday, they got in touch with me and told me it was okay to let her know the message that I had for her.

[His wife Lisa] called me that Saturday morning and that’s when we talked about it. I had visualized everything that was taking place as if I was sitting next to him on that flight, and I asked her, I said, “Can you describe him?” And she said, “How do you think he looked?” I said, “I think he had dark hair and he had on something white because I could visualize him with dark hair and white.” And she said, “Well, he does have dark hair and he had on a white business shirt because he had on a business suit.”

She was going to send me a picture of him on Saturday. On Sunday, the Chicago Sun Times had their pictures on the front page of the newspaper and that’s when I was able to put a face with a voice and I actually got sick at that moment when I saw that. And I couldn’t go into work for two days after that. I was actually sick and did not want to hear anything else about 9/ll, see anything. I just could not take any more. That was my breaking point.

You know, when I visualized him in white, I think that was my own personal thing letting me know that he’s okay now. He’s with the angels. That’s the way I look at it.

How did you deal with these feelings?

I had therapy, and I did talk to my minister and I talked to my family. They [the memories] still come back. It’s not as bad as it was. But when I relive it, they still come back.

You mentioned that you felt such an overwhelming sadness it was almost like guilt, like you were trying to keep it up and weren’t able to.

I just feel that, you know, after the fact, you always sit back and look and think about things that you could have done or should have done. And I just wish it could have been more that I could have done for them, for all of them.

And when did you and Lisa finally meet?

We met first on the Oprah Show, and I believe that was in October. We did not want to meet out on stage for the first time. We met in the back first, and we were glad to finally see each other and hug each other and thank each other, and then we went out on stage in front of the audience.

Do you still have a relationship with her?

Yes, I do. I keep in touch with his entire family. 

You said you felt you had a spiritual calling and that you were placed in the Beamers’ lives for a reason. Could you talk about that?

A Spiritual Calling
I believe that God used me as a messenger for the Beamer family and to deliver God’s message the way he wanted it to be delivered, and I’m pretty sure that God used me for that reason.

You know, God has an assignment for you that only you can fulfill. And I think God uses us as we are with our unique gifts, abilities, and experiences. And I wasn’t prepared for my test on September the 11th. I went on faith and made myself available. God is not concerned about your ability, but your availability.

I was wondering how you’ve changed. You said you were an ordinary wife and working mother before.

A Life-Changing Experience
I’m just a mother and a wife going to work every day, and now this has changed my life in so many ways that spiritually, this has brought me closer to God. I find myself praying more often over any situation. And emotionally, it’s taken a toll on me because I was in therapy for a while. Being a private person, I’ve always shared my views with family and friends, and now I find myself sharing them with the media.

And over the last five years, I have tried to step up to the array of challenges resulting from it with sensitivity, encouragement, and a message of faith in God and his provision.

Did you ever feel angry with God for allowing all this to happen?

 No. I won’t say I never feel angry. I know we’re not supposed to question him. I wanted to, but I never did. So I didn’t question him and I did not feel angry. You know, the way I look at it, God picked certain people. He handpicked certain people to be on that flight and he picked a group full of heroes, people he knew that would stand up against the terrorists and fight back for the good of our nation and that’s exactly what they did.

What church do you belong to?

I belong to Greater St. John’s Bible Church.

What denomination is that?

Baptist. With Pastor Ira J. Acree, and that’s on the west of Chicago.

How has your faith changed since this experience?

I go to church more often. I guess I wasn’t the type of person that was in church every Sunday, but now I go to church more often than I used to before. I definitely feel closer to God. It’s brought my faith much, much stronger.

What’s the message that you feel God wants you to share in the book?

Each time I tell this story, I receive so many great responses from it. We felt that this book could encourage someone, and it should be in writing. And the reason that we wrote “Called” is because I believe that any one of us can find ourselves in a similar situation where we may be called upon to do something extraordinary when we least expect to do it. But the question is, are we prepared to respond to whatever it is that God has planned for us? And I believe that God used me as an ear witness to the bravery of the men and women on Flight 93.

What did you tell your kids about that day, and how has that affected your being a parent?

Actually, my husband spoke to them. I didn’t speak to them at all regarding it. They heard about it in school and when they came home that day, he sat down and told them the role that I played in it, and they were afraid. They just wanted to know would the evil people be back, you know, and that’s something that we really couldn’t answer. Hopefully not, but we really couldn’t answer that question.

Do you still have the same job?

No. I’m no longer with Verizon Airfone. They laid me off last April. I was there over 20 years.

What would you tell people who think that their lives don’t have a purpose?

Obviously, September the 11th was a difficult time for our entire nation. And my goal personally, and through the book, is to provide encouragement to people going through difficult situations of facing challenges in life. God can use any of us if we are available to him.

You were saying that you feel God has transformed you into an ambassador for Christ. What do you mean by that?

Well, basically, just to speak on what happened on September 11th and for the public not to forget the heroes on Flight 93, because I feel everyone was a hero, even though I only spoke to Todd. There was a flight attendant that sat next to Todd that gave us all the information that we needed. Information that Todd didn’t know that was taking place, she gave me that additional information.

How did she do that?

She was sitting right next to him, and I could hear everything she was saying because she was speaking loud enough for me to hear her through the phone. For example, if I asked him of the flight number, he would say, “Uh, the flight number?” And she would say, “93,” and then, when he told me that there were two people lying down in first class, their throats had been slashed and he couldn’t tell if they were dead or alive, she said it was the pilot and co-pilot. So whatever he couldn’t answer, she was able to answer.

So all the people were participating in some way.

All of them were participating, and it wasn’t a one-man show. Every single passenger had a hand in trying to save that flight.

Is there anything that you’d like to say about the strength that you are continuing to get from the survivors, the families? Because I know you have some of their stories at the end of your book.

Yes, I do. I think that was an encouragement for me. I’ve never written a book before. I may not write another book. But I just hope this book can impact someone’s life and encourage someone to just step up to their task or challenge when called upon.

And the families that have submitted stories in the book, I truly appreciate their stories because it let the public know how they are managing now after five years.

Will the fifth anniversary be difficult for you?

Yes. Every year has been difficult because one reason or another takes me back to that day. Either I see something on television, you know, and look at the news and see the clippings and it just takes me right back to that date, in that same spot that I was in September 11, 2001.

I wonder if you could possibly say the Lord’s Prayer for us, as you did with Todd.

The Lord's Prayer
All right…. Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.