Christian Book Previews editor, Debra Murphy, interviewed Lisa Jefferson at ICRS 2006 about her upcoming book, Called.
CBP: Can you share with us your Christian testimony?
Lisa: The book is out in stores in July 2006, and is meant to encourage those who may be facing a challenge in their lives. That day has changed my life in so many ways. Spiritually, this has brought me closer to God. I find myself praying more often over any situation. Mentally, it has really taken a toll on me because I was in therapy for a while, I grieved just like the families did. Being a private person, I've always shared my views with family and friends, and now I find myself sharing them with the media.
CBP: The five-year anniversary is coming up for 9/11. You never will be the same, but what do you highlight in your book?
Lisa: On September 11, 2001, I was a former employee of Verizon Airfone out of Oak Brook, Illinois. My office is located in the call center. As I stepped out of my office to hear what was going on on the radio, I didn't make I to the radio, I was stopped by a representative. Se told me she had a gentleman on the line and his plane was being hijacked. At that point, I went directly over to her and I gathered up information that I needed to report this to our surveillance center.
When I came back to her, she appeared to be traumatized, so I moved her from her seat to another seat, and put her handset on. I sat down and said, "Hello, my name is Mrs. Jefferson. I understand your plane is being hijacked." He asked me if I knew what they wanted, money, ransom, or what. I told him I didn't know. He told me that there were two people lying in first class, and the terrorists had asked the flight attendants to sit down, because one had just happened to sit next to him. The flight attendant said it was the pilot and co-pilot, and their throats had been slashed.
We talked about his personal life. The plane took a dive, and he asked me if I would recite the Lord's Prayer with him, and I did. I think that gave him the strength to do what he needed to do. At that point, he told me that he and a few other guys had gotten together and they were going to jump the guy with the bomb. He asked me what did I think about it. Of course, I'm thinking it's pretty dangerous, but he told me in the situation he's in, he didn't have much of a choice and he was going to have to go out on his faith. I told him I would stand behind him, whatever decisions he made.
The plane took another dive, and he called out, "Lisa!" I was wondering how he knew my first name. I said, "Yes." He said, "That's my wife's name." I told him that's my name also. He said, "Oh my God." He couldn't believe it. The ironic thing is that when we reported this to the authorities, and called the 911 operator, her name was also Lisa. I know that God had a plan. There are so many coincidences -- no, there aren't any coincidences. It was planned. This was all planned. God had a purpose and a plan for me that day.
CBP: You were an "ear" witness, how do you keep yourself in order?
Lisa: You know, when I took the call over, he was calm in relaying what was happening around him. And I was calm for him. I believe that we comforted each other. I asked him, if he didn't have to hang up the phone, to keep the line open so I could hear what was going on in the background. So he kept the line open, and the last thing I heard him say was, "Are you read?" and he was speaking to someone sitting next to him. "Okay, let's roll." And then they charged the cockpit. I could hear the commotion, the screams, the rumblings, the passengers being thrown up against the plane, and that's just something I'll never forget.
This being the five-year anniversary, I'm looking at it as a one-year anniversary because it's still so fresh in my mind. It doesn't seem like it's been five years.
CBP: Through this you've found your calling?
Lisa: Definitely. I know that God had a plan for me, and my assignment was to be the "ear" witness to passengers and the bravery of the men and women on Flight 93.
CBP: Where has your faith taken you in all this?
Lisa: It's brought me closer to God; I know that God had a calling for me, that I was available for Him, and as long as you're available for Him He can use you. And I was available that day.
CBP: You weren't a public speaker before this?
CBP: This is where He's taken you.
Lisa: I was just a mother, a housewife, and worked everyday. Just a normal person. By me being a private person, I've shared views with family and friends, and now I'm sharing it with the whole world, and I think this is a story that we should not forget. We should not forget the heroes of Flight 93.
CBP: God uses ordinary people.
Lisa: That's right.
CBP: How have you touched Lisa Beamer's life?
Lisa: She called me a pillar of strength. She thanked me for being there for her husband, and the entire family. I'm very close to the entire family, and they all thank me for being there for him. I asked him, while I was talking to him, if he wanted me to put his call through to his wife, and he told me no because he didn't want to upset her. They were expecting their third child in January. She said that she's glad that he didn't call, so I guess they knew each other, and that I was just the messenger for the Beamer family that God chose.
CBP: It's been five years, so you didn't write about this right away.
Lisa: The book was actually started years ago. The literary agent I was working with passed away once we had contacted the publisher Moody. That put it on hold for a little time, but we continued to write the book and found a new literary agent. Now at the end of five years, we think this is a good time.
CBP: You include stories written by others in the last section. What kind of things did they share?
Lisa: Stories from other family members regarding their family victims that were killed on that plane, telling where they are now. They have a little poem, parents speaking about a child, or a daughter speaking about her mother, or about a mother and father.
I've received so many letters, calls, emails, each time I tell this story. People said that it should be in writing. So we thought about it, and said, "I guess we can put it in writing. We will do this."
CBP: It's changed your life, your family's life, what about your husband?
Lisa: My husband is a very strong man who's always been there for the family. This has really thrust the entire family into the spotlight, it's change our lives in so many ways. Each time my children, they're eleven and thirteen, whenever they see anything regarding 9/11 on television, book, or magazine, they say, "Mom, are you going to be in there?" I hope not. They always relate me to 9/11.
CBP: They see that you're not striving to be in the spotlight, but you're stepping up to the plate.
Lisa: Exactly. I step up to the plate and I feel that it's an honor that God gave me this position to represent the men and women on Flight 93, and let everyone know that we should never forget them and what they did.
CBP: You talk about serving God. Are we ready when it comes?
Lisa: You know, I don't think we're never ready, we just have to be available. He's not concerned with our ability, He's more concerned with our availability.
CBP: Are we doing it?
Lisa: I think He's doing it through us. I know He was with me, I didn't do it alone. I did not do that alone. God was there with me.
CBP: You said your sharing was for a purpose. What is that?
Lisa: I just hope that this book can encourage someone who may be facing a challenge in his or her life. Once you read it, I hope you can put my shoes on for that day, and just feel what I went through. God has an assignment for everyone.
When Todd and I said the Lord's Prayer, that brought comfort to the two of us. I could visualize everything that was going on in that plane, I felt like I was sitting next to him and the flight attendant. When I spoke to his wife, I asked her to send me a picture of him because I wanted to put a face with the voice. She asked me how I thought he looked, and I said I thought he had dark hair and had on white. She said he did have dark hair and he had on a white business shirt, because he had on a business suit. I think that's just my way of knowing he's with the angels and that's a sign that they're letting me know he's okay.
When I originally took the phone call, I took it from a stranger. By the time I hung up that phone, we were the best of friends. We shared a bond, we definitely were friends.
CBP: What's next for Lisa Jefferson?
Lisa: I don't know. Right now I really don't know. I just have to see what God has planned for me.