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CNN Live Event/Special

Interview With 9/11 Widow Deena Burnett

Aired September 11, 2002 - 12:30   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Among those who we talked to today, Deena Burnett -- Thomas Burnett was on board that flight. And she joins us today to talk a bit about the day.
It's nice to see you, and we appreciate your time today.

Does the year mark mean anything in particular, or is it just another day to get through?

DEENA BURNETT, 9/11 WIDOW: It is another day to get through. And something that I have done today I have not done the rest of the year is I keep thinking about what I was doing a year ago at this time. And I think just to get through today, September 12 has to be a day in which I feel better, knowing that I have completed a year of grief and getting through it without Tom. It has been very difficult. But at least tomorrow morning when I get up I will know I did survive it.

BROWN: There is something -- we have talked about this a fair amount over the last few weeks -- there is something about having gone through that whole painful cycle of birthdays and anniversaries and holidays and the rest, all the events that mark a year and they get us to the other side of the year. It doesn't heal all the wounds, but it does tells us that we made it, doesn't it?

BURNETT: It really does. And knowing that I did pass our 10th wedding anniversary and Tom's birthday and feeling my way through the maze of grief that you go through during the first year, I think that it will make those occasions next year a little more open to happiness and joy, knowing that we've experienced them at least once without Tom.

BROWN: Tell me about Tom. Tell me about your guy. What do you want people to know about this man?

BURNETT: I think what I would want them to know most is that while people have said that Flight 93 was comprised of ordinary people, there was absolutely nothing ordinary about Tom Burnett. He was an extraordinary human being. And I feel grateful to have been his wife for 9 1/2 years. I strive every day and encourage others to live the life that he lived, one of integrity and honor and valor, and I will raise my daughters to know what a great man he was. I would have them know that he was a man of intellect, humor, compassion and love and that his greatest, greatest tributes to this world, are not just so much in his death, but the life that he lived.

BROWN: It doesn't surprise you, does it, that he was part of that group, that cadre of men and women, who decided that they would take some action even knowing how it would play out?

BURNETT: It was very typical of Tom. I know from our four telephone conversations he told me he was putting a plan together to take the airplane back. And that was very typical of him. I remember my neighbor coming over and I told her what he was doing and what was going on. And we sat at kitchen table and chuckled because this was so typical of him to get out of his seat and take over and not allow someone else to decide his fate. To know what his contribution was and what he did is a wonderful legacy that he leaves for his family's name and for his children.

BROWN: We were just before we came you to, Deena, we were talking about whether or not the family members of those who died on that flight feel that for whatever reason they have been properly acknowledged and recognized. I am curious how you feel about that, whether or not you think that your husband and the other husbands and wives and those who perished that day are noted in the way they ought to have been.

BURNETT: I would have to say that I think that Flight 93 has received a lot of recognition. Now, I lived on the West Coast for past year. I think that the ones who lived on the East Coast were probably overshadowed by the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, so Flight 93 did not get as much attention in New York City as it did in other parts of the country.

In California, Flight 93 was in the news almost every day out there. I have attended tributes and award ceremonies and remembrances all over the country on behalf of Tom and Flight 93. I have received over 10,000 cards and letters. I've sent out over 4,000 thank-you notes for gifts that were sent to my house. I have an attic full of certificates and banners and quilts and awards that have been bestowed on Tom.

So perhaps I am not the right person to answer that, but I would have to say that Flight 93 has been well recognized in other parts of the country, and it certainly should be.

BROWN: I think you are exactly the right person to answer the question.

Thanks for your time today. You try to think of something right to say in a moment like this: I hope that the sun shines where you are tomorrow on the 12th. You have made it through a year, and that says something. Our best wishes to you.

BURNETT: Thank you. Thank you.

BROWN: Thank you. Deena Burnett.