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Tom Burnett

Tom Burnett

American business executive
Tom Burnett
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American business executive
Known for Vice president and COO of a Pleasanton, California, medical devices company, Thoratec Corporation
Was Businessperson Business executive
From United States of America
Type Business
Gender male
Birth 29 May 1963, Bloomington, Hennepin County, Minnesota, USA
Death 11 September 2001, Stonycreek Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania, USA (aged 38 years)
Star sign Gemini
Residence Bloomington, Hennepin County, Minnesota, USA
University of Minnesota
Pepperdine University
College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University
Arthur Ashe Courage Award  
Tom Burnett
The details


Thomas Edward Burnett Jr. (May 29, 1963 – September 11, 2001) was an American who was the vice-president and chief operating officer of Thoratec Corporation, a medical devices company based in Pleasanton, California. He resided in San Ramon, California. On September 11, 2001, Burnett was a passenger on board United Airlines Flight 93, which was hijacked as part of the September 11 attacks. He, along with other passengers, formed the plan to retake the plane from the hijackers, and led the effort that resulted in the crash of the plane into a field in Stonycreek Township near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, thwarting the hijackers’ plan to crash the plane into a building in Washington, D.C., most likely either the U.S. Capitol Building or the White House.

Early life

Thomas Burnett was born on May 29, 1963, the son of Thomas Burnett Sr. and Beverly Burnett. Burnett and his sisters grew up in Bloomington, Minnesota. He attended Ridgeview Elementary School, then Olson Middle School. At Thomas Jefferson Senior High School, where he wore jersey No. 11 and then No. 10, he led the Jaguars to the state finals as their starting quarterback in 1980. He graduated in 1981.

Burnett studied economics at Saint John's University in Minnesota, where he was a quarterback on the football team. 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 Master of Business Administration at Pepperdine University.


In 1996 Burnett joined Thoratec Corporation, a medical devices company, as vice president of sales and marketing. In November 1999, he was promoted to senior vice president and chief operating officer.

Personal life

In 1985, Burnett became the biological father to a daughter who was given up for adoption. Her name is Mariah Mills. In July 1989, Burnett met his future wife, Deena, in Atlanta, where she had just completed flight attendant training for Delta Air Lines. They married in April 1992. They had three daughters, Halley Elizabeth, Anna Claire, and Madison Margaret, and lived in San Ramon, California, where Deena worked as a stay-at-home mother, beginning when she first became pregnant in 1995. Thomas Burnett had attended church daily in the year prior to the September 11 attacks, attempting to address a sense of foreboding which he had expressed to his wife. Burnett had busts of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill in his office.

United Airlines Flight 93

On September 11, 2001, Burnett boarded United Airlines Flight 93, returning home to San Ramon, after a business trip. Burnett sat next to passenger Mark Bingham. Burnett called his wife, Deena, after hijackers took control of the plane. He made several phone calls to her beginning at 09:30:32 from rows 24 and 25, though he was assigned a seat in row four. Burnett explained that the plane had been hijacked by men claiming to have a bomb. He also said that a passenger had been stabbed with a knife and that he believed the bomb threat was a ruse to control the passengers. During his second call to her, she relayed to him that of the attacks on the World Trade Center and he replied that the hijackers were "talking about crashing this plane. ... Oh my God. It's a suicide mission." He began pumping her for information about the attacks, interrupting her from time to time to tell the others nearby what she was saying. Then he hung up. Upon learning of the situation, Deena, a former flight attendant, recalled her training and urged Burnett to sit quietly and not draw attention to himself. However, Burnett instead informed her that he and three other passengers, Mark Bingham, Todd Beamer and Jeremy Glick, were forming a plan to take the plane back from the hijackers, and leading other passengers in this effort. He ended his last call by saying, "Don't worry, we're going to do something." Burnett and several other passengers stormed the cockpit, foiling the hijackers' plan to crash the plane into the White House or Capitol Building. The cockpit voice recorder captured Burnett yelling, "Roll it!", possibly referring to using the food cart. Burnett also yelled "We’re going in!". To prevent the passengers from regaining control of the plane, the hijackers crashed it in a Pennsylvania field, killing all 44 people on board.


Burnett memorial flag in Bloomington, Minnesota

Burnett is buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota. Funeral and burial services were held on May 24, 2002.

On September 14, 2001, the Jefferson High School football team wore on their helmets the number 10, in honor of Burnett, who wore that number when he played at Jefferson High.

In March 2002, Bradley Street, a small street in Pleasanton, California, that runs outside the headquarters of Thoratec Corp. where Burnett worked, was renamed Tom Burnett Lane.

On September 11, 2002, the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, dedicated the Tom Burnett 9/11 Memorial near the Nordstrom Court, with Burnett's loved ones in attendance.

In 2002, Burnett, along with Beamer, Bingham and Glick, were posthumously awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

A post office in his hometown of Bloomington, Minnesota, was renamed the Thomas E. Burnett Jr. Post Office.

Every May, Oak Grove Middle School students volunteer for a Thomas Burnett Day of Service. At Jefferson High School, Burnett's former teammates created a memorial to honor him situated between two football practice fields. The school's hallways display photos of Burnett and his jersey, which was retired on September 5, 2002, at Bloomington Arena during the game between Bloomington Jefferson and their rival, Bloomington Kennedy. A memorial scholarship was started in his honor, and a collection of his favorite books was placed in the school's media center. A white oak tree was planted in front of Saint Edward's Catholic Church in Bloomington, where Burnett was confirmed, and where his funeral was held. A large fieldstone in front of the tree is inscribed with the passage from the Book of John 15:13: "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends".

Burnett's name is located on Panel S-68 of the National September 11 Memorial's South Pool, along with those of other passengers of Flight 93.

In 2004, Burnett's biological daughter Mariah Mills turned 19 and became legally entitled to access information about her birth parents. She learned that Burnett was her father, and she eventually formed a relationship with Deena Burnett and with her half-sisters. Deena gave Mills an unfinished letter that Burnett had written for her in 1987.

Burnett was portrayed by Greg Benson in the documentary The Flight That Fought Back, Jeffrey Nordling in the TV film Flight 93, and by Christian Clemenson in the film United 93.

In 2008, Thoratec Europe Limited (Thoratec Corporation's European distribution arm based in Great Britain) gave its new UK headquarters in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, the name Burnett House.

In mid-2002, Deena Burnett and her daughters moved from San Ramon back to Little Rock, Arkansas, near where she grew up and where her family still lives. In 2006, Deena married Rodney Bailey, a divorced Little Rock insurance agent with a teenage son, that she met in early 2004. She 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's thoughts on the nature of heroism.

In February 2003, the California State Assembly renamed the Fostoria Way overcrossing over Interstate 680 in San Ramon the Thomas E. Burnett Jr. Memorial Bridge in his honor.

At the National 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center, Burnett is memorialized at the South Pool, on Panel S-68, along with other passengers from Flight 93.

On September 1, 2011, his widow Deena Burnett was interviewed on the death of Osama bin Laden where she said that his death had given her closure. She learned of the news while in bed and told her daughters next morning.

On September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the attacks, the Bloomington Crime Prevention Association sponsored the first annual Tom Burnett Jr. Hometown Heroes Celebration at the Hilton Mall of America. The event featured a keynote address was given by Senator Amy Klobuchar, and the presentation of the Tom Burnett Jr. Remember Award would be given to citizens who demonstrate leadership, selflessness, and a commitment to others. James Caauwe, President of the Association, explained the event thus: "We wanted to remember Tom Burnett Jr. and the sacrifices he made, but not only the sacrifices that he made on 9/11 but who he was as a person. We looked at those qualities that he had of leadership and of community service and recognized people that are doing that today."

The anniversary was also marked with the dedication of Hero's Garden, a memorial that stands in Burnett's honor at Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business and Management, where Burnett received his MBA.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 11 Sep 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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