Though she's just 6 weeks old, Morgan Kay Beamer — with her father's dark hair and a little cleft in her chin — is building a bridge between Sept. 11 and the future.
Her father, Todd Beamer, was the 32-year-old hero on United Flight 93 who said "Let's roll" before joining other passengers in storming the cockpit. The passengers apparently fought with the hijackers for control of the jetliner, which plummeted into the ground rather than hitting its intended target. Everyone on board died.
Her mother, Lisa Beamer, has become a public symbol of courage and strength to a grieving nation as she struggles to keep her family together. Now the mother of three — including Morgan's two big brothers, David, 4, and Drew, 2 — Lisa is still learning how to raise her family without her husband.
Lisa, who gave birth on Jan. 9, had her sister-in-law by her side. Lisa says Todd had hoped third child would be a girl, and she named the baby after him — Morgan was his middle name. Lisa says of her husband, "I felt like he knew what was happening. I felt like he was smiling."
But Morgan came home from the hospital to no father. Lisa, who lost her father when she was 15, knows that emptiness all too well.
"Although pain dissipates over time, it doesn't go away," she says. "I know that many years down the road we'll still be sad in some ways. But we'll triumph, too."
Though Todd is always in her thoughts, Lisa said she tries not to focus on the events of Sept. 11. "If I see a picture of the crash site or something like that on TV, obviously I think through it in my head," she says, "but I don't dwell too much on what happened that day."
Still, there are almost constant reminders of the void in her life. "Coming in the door every night is the big thing," she says, referring to her husband's homecoming at the end of each workday. "To hear the garage door go up, see the kids go to the door, is probably the biggest thing I miss."
To preserve her husband's memory for the children who will grow up without him, Lisa keeps him very much present in their home. His photos, for example, are kept at eye level for David and Drew.
"Each of the kids, I kind of made a box of mementos for them around all the stuff that's happened this fall," she says. "And Morgan has a special big box because she has all her stuff from when she was born that came: a letter from the president, a letter from Mrs. Bush …"
Years of home movies are a reminder of what life was like with her college love, spending time together as a family.
"I'm glad I have things like that to be able to show the kids," she says.
David, her 4-year-old, says he has an idea where his daddy lives now. "Up in the light," he says, "up where the sun is."
When he asks his mother if his father can see him, Lisa tells him: "He knows what we're doing. And he's proud of us … And he knows Morgan's here."
'Let's Roll' Controversy
Thanks to Todd, who was a rising star at the software company Oracle, his family is financially stable. So Lisa and his friends established the Todd Beamer Foundation to help all the children who lost a parent on Sept. 11. There are at least 22 children who lost a parent on Flight 93 alone.
Lisa and the foundation are seeking trademark protection for the phrase "Let's Roll," which they feel has become the nation's battle cry in the war against terrorism. Though the move has sparked controversy, Lisa says her motivation is a desire to help other families.
"It's not about money … If someone's going to profit off it, we would like it to be the children who lost a parent that day," she says.
All proceeds would go to the foundation, she says. "It's not personal at all.
Singers and musicians, including celloist Yo-Yo Ma, have recorded a CD for the foundation, recreating the last moments of Flight 93.
"God let this happen for a reason, and I don't know exactly what it is," she says. "But good things can come out of it for me, and for my children, and for us as a country."
And amid her grief, she has a powerful impetus toward life: Morgan Kay Beamer — with her father's eyes, chin and hair — just smiled for the first time.