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New Life For 9/11 Widow Deena Burnett

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

There is a new book out by Deena Burnett, widow of Tom Burnett, one of the heroes of Flight 93. In it, Deena recounts how her husband had a feeling, well in advance, that the terror attacks were coming.

Deena Burnett: "It was Anna Clare's first day of pre-school and daddy was coming home."

The morning of September 11th is still vivid to Deena Burnett, especially the phone calls from husband Tom.

Deena Burnett: "He told me that he was putting a plan together to take back the plane, and he told me not to worry."

Passengers and crew stormed the cockpit, and Flight 93 crashed, but into a field, not the White House as the hijackers presumably intended.

Deena remembers her day ended, telling her three daughters their dad was dead.

Deena Burnett: "I remember Madison just screaming, 'No, no.' Five years old."

Today life couldn't be more different. In the summer of 2002, Deena and her girls moved from San Ramon back to Arkansas where she grew up and still has family.

As lost and vulnerable as they felt in the days and months after the attacks, they are happy and thriving now. And this summer Deena married a Little Rock businessman she met on a blind date almost two years ago. This time, Madison's cries were joyful.

Deena Burnett: "When I told Madison that we were engaged, she cried and cried and she said, "Oh mom, ever since dad died I have prayed and prayed that God would send us another daddy.'"

Deena says she didn't agonize over re-marriage because she and Tom had talked about it before. New husband Rodney accepts that Flight 93 and its legacy are a part of his life now, as they are hers.

Deena Burnett: "He is so patient and kind-hearted and sweet-spritied and quiet. He has a heart big enough for all of us, including Tom."

The year after the attacks, we accompanied Deena as she visited the Shanksville crash site for the first time. She's been back only once since then, and when Flight 93 families gather for a memorial service on the upcoming anniversary, Deena won't be there. It's not a place, she says, that brings her comfort.

Deena Burnett: "It is a beautiful place, it is a solemn place, but for me it is a very sad place."

Instead, Deena is putting her energy into her book titled "Fighting Back." It's what the heroes of Flight 93 did and what she thinks everyone should do in their own way, in their own lives -- get involved.

Her book also reveals Tom had been going to church daily in the year before the attacks, trying to understand a sense of foreboding -- a feeling he'd told her about.

Deena Burnett: "'The only thing I know is that it's going to have a huge impact on a a great number of people and it has something to do with the White House.' I really look at it as God's grace, preparing both of us for something that was going to happen."

Deena is in the Bay Area for a speaking appearance and book signing, pleased her book is generating interest.

It began, she says, as a story for her daughters to keep their memories of Tom alive.

Deena Burnett: "I think it's important that they know who he was and to feel as if they not only have a dad, that they had a dad who really loved them."

Deena Burnett is signing her book tomorrow at 3 p.m. at Barnes & Noble in Walnut Creek.

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