Sunday, September 10, 2023

September 11, 2001: Todd Beamer's Rolex

...Commemorating Sept. 11, 2001...


The 9/11 Rolex

Let's Roll!


"Rolex is the international mark of success," is a phrase famously said by Jake in these pages and even requoted in The New York Times. For Todd Beamer, passenger of Flight United 93, his mark of success came when he was promoted from salesman to account manager at Oracle. 

Todd's father, David Beamer, agrees. "Todd's watch was a fine watch," he said. "He was a successful guy."

We can easily recall where we were on Sept. 11, 2001. I was putting my uniform on that morning, grabbing my flight bags and headed to my '65 convertible Mustang as an airline Captain based in Washington, D.C. My neighbor saw me outside and she called me. "Have you seen the news? I don't think you'll be flying anywhere today." I immediately went back inside and followed the horrific events on live TV. 

Todd Beamer

For Todd Beamer, it was a different story. He and his wife had traveled through Italy on a trip paid for by Oracle. The couple returned to the U.S. on Sept. 10, and Todd rose early the following morning to catch Flight 93 out of Newark airport for San Francisco.

Todd's story on that fateful flight is well known. "Let's roll!" were his last recorded words as he and other passengers attempted to storm the cockpit and retake the plane from the hijackers. The slogan subsequently became a battle cry for American forces during the War on Terror. 

In a Nov. 8 address from the World Congress Center in Atlanta, President George W. Bush invoked Todd's words: "Some of our greatest moments have been acts of courage for which no one could have been prepared. But we have our marching orders. My fellow Americans, let's roll!" He used them again in the 2002 State of the Union address: "For too long our culture has said, 'If it feels good, do it.' Now America is embracing a new ethic and a new creed: 'Let's roll.'"

Todd's watch is frozen in time, the date window permanently stuck on "11." It is a two-tone Rolex Datejust Turn-O-Graph with a champagne dial on Jubilee bracelet. The Turn-O-Graph is essentially a Datejust with a rotating bezel. Unfortunately, the model is no longer sold by Rolex; in fact, it hasn’t been since 2011.

Todd's Rolex is charred, smashed, fragmented, missing the crystal, the second hand, and what would appear to be the minute hand and also the bracelet. The Rolex has been through hell, there is no other way to put it. But the coronet logo is unmistakable. Every Rolex tells a story and, in a sense, this one still tells the story of one day, one date. Still displayed in the window.


After the hijackers took over the plane, Todd saw the dead co-pilot laying in the aisle near the cockpit with his throat slit. He reached for the phone on the seat back in front of him and tried to call his wife, but could not get through. 

Screenshot from the movie "United 93"

He instead got a G.T.E. operator. He told her what was happening, and she connected the call to F.B.I. agents. The phone remained connected for fifteen minutes while Beamer and several others organized to overtake the terrorists. 

Moments after Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania

He had the flight attendants boil water and assemble whatever could be used as a weapon. He said the Lord's prayer and the Psalm 23 with the G.T.E. operator, others joined in. He then told her to call his wife and kids and tell them he loved them. The last words the operator heard Todd Beamer say were, “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll.” 

We know that Flight 93 was destined for Washington D.C., near where I lived, making this story extra personal. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, at 9:55 am—as I was getting ready for work—the terrorist pilot Ziad Jarrah dialed in the frequency for the navigational aid at Washington Reagan National Airport, clearly indicating that the attack was planned for the nation's capital.

And Todd Beamer, a Rolex on his wrist, said, "Let's roll!" He helped stop the hijackers' plan from unfurling while saving countless lives on the ground.