Beamer High is big news nationally


Staff writer

Last weekŽ’s decision by the Federal Way School Board to name the districtŽ’s new high school after deceased 9-11 hero Todd Beamer was of interest to more than just local residents.

The first school to be named after a victim of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Todd Beamer High became the topic of conversation worldwide.

In addition to local media coverage, an Associated Press article ran in newspapers throughout the country, and radio and television stations from San Francisco to Great Britain picked up the story. CNN and Fox News included the decision on their headline news tickers.

The school-naming wasnŽ’t publicly acknowledged by BeamerŽ’s widow, however. Despite her own high profile through a book and a foundation named for her late husband, Lisa Beamer wasnŽ’t accepting media requests for interviews and hadnŽ’t issued a statement by Monday.

Todd Beamer is best known for uttering the words Ž“Are you ready? LetŽ’s roll,Ž” presumably spurring other passengers to storm the cockpit of hijacked United Airlines Flight 93.

Beamer and the other passengers are believed to have prevented a terrorist hijackersŽ’ attack on an unknown target in Washington, D.C. The flight crashed in rural Pennsylvania within minutes of BeamerŽ’s words, killing all 44 on board.

Although the post office in BeamerŽ’s New Jersey hometown and a student center at Wheaton College, his alma mater, have been named for him, Beamer High is the first school to bear his name.

The decision has not been without controversy.

E-mails and comments received from Federal Way residents have criticized the School. Board for honoring a person unrelated to the community, whose actions have not been tested by time.

The board itself was split on the issue. After more than an hour of heated debate, the final vote was 3-1, with board member Don Putnam voting against Beamer and Charlie Hoff abstaining.

But, with media attention focused on Federal Way, board president Earl VanDorien Jr. points to the coverage as an opportunity for the city and its residents to Ž“shineŽ” in the spotlight.

VanDorien himself has been interviewed by nearly a dozen local and national media outlets, and received an e-mail from nationally-syndicated humor columnist Dave Barry thanking him for quoting him during the Oct. 22 board meeting.

Ž“We now need to be portrayed in a positive light as a community that is proud of our new school and the kids in it. We do not need to show the country that we are bickerers and poor sports about not getting Ž“our nameŽ’ selected,Ž” said VanDorien. Ž“We need to show we can civilly disagree but in the end, we are a united community.Ž”

With a book, a Web site, a charitable foundation and a Ž“LetŽ’s rollŽ” store selling Beamer merchandise on-line, the Todd Beamer name has become a marketing conglomeration.

BeamerŽ’s widow, Lisa, began the Todd M. Beamer Foundation Sept. 24, 2001 to assist children affected by family trauma and released a book -ŽÐŽÐ Ž“LetŽ’s roll: Ordinary People, Extraordinary CourageŽ” -ŽÐŽÐ in late-August about her experiences.

The book -ŽÐŽÐ plus hats, shirts and sweatshirts bearing the Beamer name ŽÐŽÐ is available on-line from the foundation.

Ž“Knowing that the children (who will attend the school) had nominated ToddŽ’s name to be used, we were just in awe that the children understand the impact ToddŽ’s life had made,Ž” said Doug MacMillan, BeamerŽ’s friend and chief executive officer of the Todd M. Beamer Foundation. Ž“WeŽ’re just honored that ToddŽ’s name and Ž“LetŽ’s rollŽ’ is being used as a way to motivate or inspire other people. WeŽ’re especially happy when it is children that are affected and touched by ToddŽ’s actions.Ž”

VanDorien said he has made a request for Lisa Beamer to speak at the schoolŽ’s opening next fall.

Staff writer Jody Allard can be reached at 925-5565 and

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