Thomas Edward Burnett Jr. (May 29, 1963 – September 11, 2001) was the vice president and COO of a Pleasanton, California, medical devices company, Thoratec Corporation. At the time of his death, Mr. Burnett resided in San Ramon, California. He died at age 38 in the September 11, 2001 attacks on board United Airlines Flight 93.
Burnett graduated from Thomas Jefferson Senior High School in Bloomington, Minnesota in 1981 after leading the football team to the state semi-finals as their starting quarterback. His football jersey, #10, is now retired at his former high school.
Burnett studied economics at Saint John's University in Minnesota. After two years, an injury shortened his football career and he transferred to the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. He was named President of the Alpha Kappa Psi Fraternity, then later graduated with a B.S. degree in Finance. He went on to earn a MBA at Pepperdine University.
United Airlines Flight 93
On September 11, 2001, while on board Flight 93, he was able to call his wife four times on an airphone after the hijackers took control of the plane.
Burnett and other passengers had been in communication with people via airphones and learned that the World Trade Center had been hit using hijacked airplanes. Burnett was among the passengers who decided to fight the hijackers hand-to-hand.
Burnett called his wife, Deena, and reportedly told her, "We're all going to die, but three of us are going to do something." He is survived by his wife and three young daughters: Halley, Madison, and Anna Clare. He is also survived by a biological daughter, Mariah, that he and his college girlfriend gave up for adoption in 1985. (Mariah Mills now has a relationship with Deena and her three half-sisters.)
Deena Burnett co-authored a book with Anthony Giombetti entitled Fighting Back: Living Life Beyond Ourselves. The book is published by Advantage Inspirational and was released in July 2006. Fighting Back recounts the difficulties in getting the FBI to release cockpit voice recorder tapes from United 93 to the public, and includes Deena Burnett's thoughts on the nature of heroism.
Burnett was posthumously awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 2002. Also in that same year, a street in Pleasanton, California, where he worked for Thoratec Corporation, was renamed Tom Burnett Lane, commemorating his heroic efforts on Flight 93 that fateful day of September 11, along with his fellow passengers. There is also a memorial called Hero's Garden at Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business and Management in Tom's honor.
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