Thursday, August 30, 2012

Jersey Boys

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Todd Beamer did not board United 93 at Newark Airport on the morning of September 11, 2001 with the intention of becoming a hero.  He was an account manager for Oracle, living in suburban New Jersey with his wife Lisa and their two little boys.  On what became the final morning of his life, he was travelling for business.   But when what had dawned as just another ordinary Tuesday morning morphed into something decidedly more sinister, Beamer played a vital role in making sure that the objective of the vermin who had hijacked United 93 would not be realized.  

At the time of his death, Beamer's wife Lisa was expecting the couple's third child.  In May 2002 Lisa Beamer gave birth to a little girl.  She named their daughter Morgan Kay, bestowing upon her youngest child the honor of carrying her daddy's middle name as her first name.  A connection to a father whose arms never got to hold her and whose voice never got to sing her to sleep at night.  In the aftermath of the horror that was September 11, 2001 Lisa Beamer seemed to be everywhere.  As time has passed, her profile has diminished.  She is - by her own account - a "suburban mom from New Jersey.... a temporary public figure".  

If you have a few minutes, click on the link in the final sentence of the paragraph above.  It is the video of her commencement address to the Wheaton College class of 2011.  Perhaps you will be struck - even if for just a moment - as I was by how young she is today, how much younger she was eleven years ago and just how cruel a world can be that makes widows out of wives who are barely thirty years old. 

Jeremy Glick was thirty-one years old on the morning of September 11, 2001 when he boarded United 93 at Newark Airport.  He was married.  He and his wife Lyzbeth had likely endured more than their fair share of sleepless nights during the Summer of '01.  They were new parents after all.  The couple's first child, their daughter Emerson, having been born just twelve weeks earlier.  On the final morning of his life - confronted with what he likely knew was an impossible situation - Glick demonstrated resolve and calm that seems almost incomprehensible.  He spent the final twenty minutes or so prior to the passengers' assault on the hijackers on the phone speaking with his wife and with his in-laws.   

Glick's ability to keep his cool and his willingness to sacrifice himself for others likely came as little surprise to those who knew him best of all.  He was raised by parents who preached the importance of "The Three C's" - Compassion, Courage and Character - to Jeremy and his siblings.  By all accounts, Jeremy Glick lived every day of his life adhering to those three guiding principles.  It was only on the final day of his life that those of us who never made his acquaintance got to see him apply them.  

On the final day of his life, Jeremy Glick exhorted his wife Lyz to live her life and to always take care of Emmy.  One supposes that he smiles a lot when he looks in on them from time to time.  She has honored his wish and the promise she made to him to remember him always but to never stop getting all she can out of life. 

LeRoy Homer, Jr., who lived in Marlton New Jersey with his wife Melodie and their daughter Laurel (who was less than a year old in September 2001), was thirty-six years young when he died in Shanksville, Pennsylvania on the morning of September 11, 2001.  He was aboard United 93.  He was not a passenger.  LeRoy Homer, Jr. was United 93's First Officer.  Homer had worked for United for roughly six and one-half years at the time of his death.  He joined the airline after a distinguished career in the service of his country in the United States Air Force, which he entered as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1987 after graduating from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado as a member of the Class of  '87. 

He and Melodie first met while they were living 3,000 miles apart from one another.  He must have made one hell of an impression on that initial, blind date because eight months later she had moved across the country from California to New Jersey.  Less than three years later they were married.  His specialty while in the Air Force was piloting C-141B Starlifters, which are "mammoth heavy transport planes".  During the first Gulf War he flew them to/from the Middle East and bases in Europe.  During their all-too-brief time together he enjoyed flying with Melodie to far-flung locales including trips to Tahiti, Bora Bora, Greece, London, Germany, Canada and the Caribbean.

In the decade-plus since her husband's death, Melodie Homer has taken on the responsibility of creating and overseeing a foundation in her husband's name that supports young people interested in pursuing a career in aviation.  The Foundation's web site's home page contains a quote from Marcus Cicero that strikes me as absolutely pitch perfect:  The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.  A mantra by which Melodie Homer lives her life and by which she honors the life of her husband.  A lesson, really, for all of us....

No one has the answer but one thing is true,
You've got to turn on evil when it's coming after you,
You've gotta face it down and when it tries to hide,
You've gotta go in after it and never be denied,
Time is runnin' out,

-AK






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