Former Johnnie, 9/11 hero's legacy lives on through wife's speech
His words, ‘Let's Roll,' left imprints in Americans' hearts. His wife will tell his story at St. John's
Jessa CizekThe Record
October 6, 2005
Former Johnnie Tom Burnett heroically gave his life Sept. 11, 2001, aboard United Flight 93.
That day, he boarded the plane headed for San Francisco from Newark, N.J.
Little did he know that his flight had been hijacked.
Deena Burnett, Tom's wife, will speak about his life and story at SJU on Oct. 17.On Sept, 11, she was able to reach her husband via telephone and alert him of the attacks that had hit the World Trade Center Towers and Pentagon earlier that morning.
Her husband, along with a group of passengers aboard the flight, then flooded the cockpit, and the plane went down into a Pennsylvanian field.
Deena Burnett lives to share her husband's legacy.
This event has had a major impact on her life.
"I think that it has certainly made me more aware of the impact that one person can have on the community and on the world," Burnett said. "It makes me want to make a difference, not only for the benefit to have a better world to raise my children in, but also in Tom's honor.
"She said her husband was a man of great faith, which he strengthened at St. John's."Tom was a person of incredible faith," Burnett said.
"He was raised in a strong Catholic home and he has always accredited his strong faith to his time spent at St. John's."
"He didn't think if he had gone anywhere else he'd have the faith that he developed at St. John's," Burnett said.
"He found his faith to be invaluable in his life.
"She will speak at 7 p.m. on Oct. 17 at St. John's to discuss her husband's actions and how they have inspired her family to continue what he started.
Students Fostering Conservative Thought arranged her presentation to take place at 7 p.m. in Pellegrene.
"He's a good example of an everyday hero, somebody that stepped up when he faced death, and he put his life on the line to save the lives of many other people," said SJU junior Luke Hellier.
"He's a hero that students here can identify with, he's someone who was willing to step up to the plate and protect others and help others in need.
"Tom Burnett grew up in Bloomington, Minn. where he was the star quarterback of his football team. He continued his passion for football at St. John's for three years before an injury prevented him from playing.
He finished his degree in economics at the University of Minnesota. Burnett said her husband was a dedicated father of three girls, husband and top executive. He resided in San Ramon, Calif., where he attended daily Mass and was senior vice president and chief operating officer at Thoratec Corporation.
Since his heroic actions on 9/11, Tom Burnett has been honored by SJU as recipient of the Alumni Achievement Award and a scholarship fund was set up in his name.
Among many other national awards and honors, he was nationally recognized by ESPN through the Ashe Award, which commemorated him and fellow passengers for the courage and heroism they showed that day.
Deena Burnett continues to share the legacy her husband left.She is the president of the Tom Burnett Family Foundation, a public charity founded to educate children to be active citizens and tomorrow's leaders.
She is currently working on a book titled "Fighting Back."
Burnett and her three daughters now live in Little Rock, Ark.
She continues to deliver her husband's story."Our hope is that in doing so we lay the foundation for a stronger America."