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Thomas Burnett Jr., funeral Mass hijackers' Flight 93

By Chris Williams

Associated Press

BLOOMINGTON -- A Minnesota native hailed as a hero for helping thwart a hijacking that was part of the Sept. 11 attacks was remembered by his family and well-wishers on Friday.

Thomas Burnett Jr., who grew up in Bloomington and graduated from Jefferson High School, died when United Flight 93 crashed in rural Pennsylvania after the passengers rose up against the terrorists. The plane may have been headed for the White House.

During the hijacking, Burnett called his wife, Deena, to tell her about the hijacking and say and he some other passengers were "going to do something about it." The plane crashed soon afterward. Burnett's widow and parents, who have heard the cockpit recording, say they're sure he was among the four that resisted.

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At a funeral Mass at the Church of St. Edward, Monsignor Joe Slepicka noted that Burnett and three other men credited with spoiling the hijackers' plans were all on Flight 93 somewhat unexpectedly. Burnett was returning home to California and his wife and three young daughters after a business meeting ended early.

"God seems to call the right people at the right time and place for the good of others," said Slepicka, who led the Mass before about 100 people.

About 200 people gathered Friday afternoon for his interment at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, where Burnett received military honors. A bugle player played taps. An honor guard fired three volleys of shots in his honor.

At the end of the ceremony, tearful family members placed white roses on the black casket.

Deena Burnett said she has been touched by all the support she has received since the attacks, but had trouble finding closure in the day's ceremonies.

"The only thing that has ended is Tom's life," she said. "It is something we live with every day."

His father, Thomas Burnett Sr., said he was glad his son, who spent three months at the Air Force Academy, was buried with other veterans at Fort Snelling.

"All those guys that went up against the hijackers were in the vanguard in the war on terrorism," he said. "They were civilian soldiers, in effect."

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