Let's roll

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"Let's roll" is a catchphrase that has been used extensively as a term to move and start an activity, attack, mission or project. After the September 11 attacks, the phrase, especially in the United States, has come to symbolize heroism, self sacrifice and initiative in a tough situation. This use of the phrase was inspired by Todd Beamer's final known words, "Are you guys ready? Let's roll!" The phrase has been widely appropriated as a battlecry.


Pre-September 11, 2001 usage

The phrase may have its origins as early as 1908 in the cadence song now called "The Army Goes Rolling Along", which likely extended into tank usage. "The Roads Must Roll", a science fiction story written in 1940 by Robert A. Heinlein, mentions a re-worded version of "The Roll of the Caissons" called "Road Songs of the Transport Cadets." The protagonist of Ernest Hemingway's Across the River and into the Trees, Colonel Dick Cantwell, based on World War II commander Charles "Buck" Lanham, uses the phrase to his driver. He knows he is facing imminent death, but tries to maintain decency, grace, and a sense of humor. The verb "roll" has also been used in both the film and recording industry to signal the beginning of a film or audio recording. "Let's roll" was in common use on 1950s and 1960s police television shows such as Adam-12 and (the original) Dragnet. It was also used at the end of roll call at the beginning of Hill Street Blues episodes. It has appeared, among other places, in the Transformers animated series by Optimus Prime before entering battle or embarking on a group journey with his Autobots (as well as in the 2009 feature film Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen). It was also used in the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and the 1987 movie Matewan, where it was used by Baldwin-Felts agents just before a violent attack on striking coal miners. The term was also in widespread use in the United Kingdom in the 1980s and early 1990s, featuring in many low-budget TV productions and plays throughout the country. The toys use the phrase when setting out to rescue Woody in the 1999 animated children's film Toy Story 2. In the late 90s, the term "let's roll" was frequently used to initiate a departure from any given place. Hence, the term and true context of the term "let's roll" during this time period was to initiate action from an individual to a group of friends.

Flight 93

Todd Beamer, a passenger on the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93, tried to place a credit card call through a phone located on the back of a plane seat but was routed to a customer-service representative instead, who passed him on to supervisor Lisa Jefferson. Beamer reported that one passenger was killed and, later, that a flight attendant had told him the pilot and co-pilot had been forced from the cockpit and may have been wounded. He was also on the phone when the plane made its turn in a southeasterly direction, a move that had him briefly panicking. Later, he told the operator that some of the plane's passengers were planning to attack the hijackers and take control of the aircraft. According to Jefferson, Beamer's last audible words were "Are you guys ready? Let's roll."[1]

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