Click photo to enlarge
Deena Burnett spoke Wednesday night at St. Mary's College in Moraga as part of an organized event to memorialize the victims of Flight 93.
MORAGA — San Ramon native Deena Burnett returned to the Bay Area from her home is Arkansas Wednesday, to share with college students her tragic experiences with 9/11, and to remind Americans freedom is worth fighting for.

Burnett said she fell hard the morning of Sept. 11 to hear her husband Tom Burnett calling from inside Flight 93, telling his wife the plane had been hijacked and he was leading a coalition to ram the cockpit and fight the terrorists.

He told her not to worry. Those were his last words.

She recalled the tale of the dire phone call to a room full of students, parents and reporters at St. Mary's College in Moraga Wednesday evening. The school's California College Republicans organized this 9/11 memorial event to give Burnett a chance to tell her story, and to commemorate the upcoming fifth anniversary of the terror attacks.

"I'm not much of a public speaker, but I like that college students ask a lot of questions. They're intrigued when I tell them that they can make a difference," Burnett said,

Burnett talked about the fear she experienced on Sept. 11, 2001. She feared leaving her house, she feared for her daughters, and she feared for the safety of Americans. She even talked about the struggle of coping with her three daughters following the death of their father.

Although it has been a tough journey, Burnett said she feels it's important for Americans to understand they can make a difference and overcome any obstacle.


Advertisement

"If Tom were here, he would tell us he was just doing the right thing. He would laugh when people called him a hero," said Burnett. "Making the commitment to be an everyday hero; we each have an obligation as Americans to do what we can."

Burnett was asked about controversial issues such as national security, the war on terrorism and President Bush's popularity.

"Five years later we are safer than we ever were," She said about national security. Burnett also said she does not agree with the criticism of President Bush.

"I think it's easy to throw the blame when you're not walking in their shoes," she said. "He has had made some tough decisions and I respect him."

Burnett also said she disagrees with the attitudes of many Bay Area residents who are against the war and the military.

"I think that anyone who doesn't believe that war on terrorism is necessary, they don't remember. They don't remember how fearful our nation was that day," she said. "It's heart wrenching."

It was clear Burnett's comments resonated with those in attendance.

Bryan Welden, organizer of the "Lafayette Flag Brigade" five years running said, "it concerns me more than anything that the support after 9/11 was high and now it is diminishing. Young people have said 9/11 wasn't that significant. It deeply concerns me."

Danielle White, Co-President of the College Republican Club at St Mary's, agreed. "It doesn't matter age, race, political party, this is a day we will never forget and to be reminded of the heroism that was displayed for our country."

Burnett said the memorial event dedicated to her husband is a way for people to remember what happened that day.

"Tom always said, `If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything.'

"He loved our country," said Burnett. "If he were here, he'd raise his glass and say `live every day as it is your last.'"

Burnett said she will continue to speak all over the United States to remind people of the sacrifices people have made to ensure us freedom.

"If this was your last day on earth," she asks, "have you made a difference? What are you willing to fight for?"