Wife of 9/11 hero relies on her faith

  • Article by: ROSE FRENCH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 2, 2012 - 1:13 AM
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May 24, 2002: Deena Burnett, right, widow of Tom Burnett Jr., receives the American flag from her husband's coffin during his burial at Fort Snelling cemetery in Bloomington.

Photo: JUDY GRIESEDIECK, Star Tribune

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Deena Burnett's husband, Tom, was among the passengers who battled terrorists on board United Airlines Flight 93. The Bloomington native helped stop hijackers from crashing the jetliner into the White House or U.S. Capitol. Instead, the plane went down in a Pennsylvania field.

Life for the homemaker and her three young daughters changed forever. Deena gave scores of media interviews and public speeches following 9/11 and wrote a book about her husband's heroism and the impact of his loss on her family.

She gives fewer talks these days, but she's making an exception to be the featured speaker July 20 at the Ministry of Mothers Sharing conference at St. Edward's Catholic Church in Bloomington. It's the church Tom attended as a child and where his memorial drew an overflowing crowd.

Deena is expected to talk about her husband's heroic acts as well as the "potential for heroism in each of us" as part of a presentation called "Becoming Who God Intends Us to Be."

"When you relinquish control of your own life and your own decisions, and you turn your burdens over to God and your talent and ability and everything you have over to him, and ask him to use that for his glory ... I want them [attendees] to know that at that point you can become who God intends you to be. Until then, I think life is a struggle with us wrestling for that control."

Deena puts much of her energy into raising her teenage children in Little Rock, Ark., where she moved from California to be near her family shortly after Tom's death and where she eventually remarried.

Tom's sisters and parents still live in the Minneapolis area, and Deena enjoys bringing her daughters here for visits.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for my children to be able to sit down with his sisters and parents and hear stories about their dad that I don't know about and I can't tell," she said. "It's truly a blessing to come back and spend time with them."

Rose French • 612-673-4352

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