“You’ve become it,” Larry King advised the woman he was hosting on his nationally syndicated talk show, for the seventh time in six months. Seconding the opinion of a caller who had referred to her as “the spokesperson across America for all the World Trade Center […] and plane victims,” King would permit no polite demurrals from his guest: “By choice or not, you’re it” (Larry King Live, 22 Feb. 2002). “It” by that moment, early in 2002, Lisa Beamer surely had become: if not exactly the “spokesperson,” the preeminent witness to the trauma of 9/11 and the event’s most widely recognized celebrity. Wife of the man whose call “Let’s roll!” helped rally fellow passengers to action on a hijacked flight above Pennsylvania, five months pregnant at the time of her loss, Beamer came to be known as the “hero widow.”
The celebrations of the 2009 Lincoln Bicentennial revealed the continuing struggle to separate the man from the myth. Lincoln, who has long become an icon of popular culture, as a subject for teaching thus challenges teachers and students alike to divorce the historical figure from his cultural representation(s), which tends to push from view the complexities of his character and his age.