When the end draws nigh

On a Tuesday at 06:15, Todd Beamer left his home in Newark, New Jersey. He was taking a flight to San Francisco for a business meeting at 13:00 later that day. At 08:42, his flight, United Airlines Flight 93 took off. It was a glorious, sunny day. Unknown to Todd and other passengers was that just 28 minutes before they took off, American Airlines Flight 11 had been hijacked and that their plane was one of four planes to be hijacked on that day. In fact, as they were taking off, a second plane, United Airlines flight 175 was getting hijacked and only 2 minutes later, the first plane, Flight 11, would crash into the Northern Tower of the World Trade Centre. It only took 46 minutes into the flight 93’s journey for the plane to get hijacked as well. Understandably, the distraught passengers made phone calls to their loved ones on the ground who in turn informed them about what had happened at the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon (the third plane crashed there).

Todd, like the other passengers also tried to make a call but his was routed to a customer-service representative who passed it on to the airphone supervisor at GTE (a telephone service company), Lisa Jefferson. With the FBI also listening in on this call, Todd would go on to relay information about the hijackers – how many they were, the weapons they had and the situation on the plane.

Based on the information the passengers were getting from the people on the ground coupled with the grim reality on the plane, they resolved to take action by storming into the cockpit and taking over the controls. They managed to get into the cockpit but they could not get to the controls and they ended up crashing on an empty field while traveling at an astonishing speed of 563 miles per hour (906 km/h). They crashed upside down and everyone on board was killed instantly. As tragic as this was, the actions of the passengers and flight attendants averted more disastrous outcomes. It is believed that the hijackers were targeting either the White House or the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. They were only 20 minutes away. Had they succeeded, 9/11 could have turned out much worse than it did and more people could have died.

In all the happenings of 9/11 that relate to flight 93, Todd Beamer’s request to Ms Jefferson before charging into the cockpit is the most profound to me. He requested to pray with Ms Jefferson. With tear-eyed and helpless Ms Jefferson on one end of the line, Todd would go ahead and pray the Lord’s prayer. After this, Todd would recite Psalm 23 and as he did, those around Ms Jefferson joined in the recital. It was a sweet moment during the darkest hour. Todd Beamer knew that the chances of making it alive from this were infinitesimal. Yet, with death as eminent as can be, his request and wish was to pray and recite a Psalm.

I wonder what my last request would be in the face of death. When that day comes and I know in the deepest of hearts that this is it, what will I ask for? What will come to mind and what will I recite? Is it scenes from the Lion King that have now been cemented in my brain that I can say lines of multiple characters at once? Maybe I might ask for a burger with extra fries. But wait, what makes me think I will even have the strength to say a word? When death is eminent, will I not be crying my lungs out? Crying for what I could have been, what I could have done or where I could have gone? Oh perhaps I might gather some strength to speak but will I not shower those around me with insults and curses? What will those last moments look like for me? I do not know.

What I long for is to act with half the bravely that Todd Beamer had on that fateful day. To be able to stand, with death closing in, and say, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures…. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; … Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Oh to be able to say these words when there is no way out. To be able to sincerely pray these words when the end is nigh. Oh to die believing as sincerely as I did on the day of my greatest deliverance and victory. Oh to die believing more than I believed on the day of my greatest victory. Oh to die saying “the Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” When my journey’s end draws near, I long to say such words. What do you long to say?

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