United Hero:  Thomas Burnett, Jr.

Thomas Burnett, Jr.

Thomas Burnett Jr. Thomas Burnett, Jr.
38 years old
San Ramon, CA

Mr. Burnett was the senior vice president and chief operating officer of Thoratec Corp., a maker of medical devices based in Pleasanton, California.

In 1980, he was the standout quarterback for Jefferson High in Bloomington, Minnesota, when the team went to the division championship game in 1980. That team rallied around Burnett every time it was in trouble.

He was an alumni of the University of Minnesota.

Thomas Burnett Jr. Mr. Burnett phoned his wife Deena four times. In the first call he told her about the situation on the plane and asked her to call authorities. The second time he phoned, he told her that he believed their captors were going to fly the plane into the ground. "The next time he called," Mrs. Burnett said, "I could tell they were formulating a plan." In the last call, he reportedly said, "I know we're going to die. There's three of us who are going to do something about it."

At his memorial service Mr. Burnett's older sister, Martha Burnett O'Brien, said she's struggling with her brother's death, partly because she didn't see him the last time he visited the family in Minnesota. It was a week and a half before his death. "I didn't know it was going to be my last chance. I regret not making time, not catching him before he flew out. I figured that I had a lifetime of opportunities to do that. And in the course of this loss, our country has gained a hero," she said.

His sister also added that her brother would be happiest if everyone in the audience at least did a little something to improve the country after last week's tragedy.

Thomas Burnett was the father of three girls, five-year-old twins, Madison and Halley, and four-year-old Anna-Claire.

Mr. Burnett's employer has set up a memorial fund. All the money collected will go directly into a fund for Deena Burnett. She plans to use the money largely for the children's education.

Send donations to:

The Thomas E. Burnett Jr. Family Memorial Fund
c/o CIBC Oppenheimer Corp.
Account #074-17387-10
580 California Street, Suite 2300
San Francisco, CA 94104
phone: (415) 438-3000

If you wish to send a letter to the family, send it to Deena Burnett, c/o Thoratec Corp. att: Beth Taylor, 6035 Stone Ridge Drive, Pleasanton, CA 94588.

For the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's biography of Thomas E. Burnett Jr., click here.