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U.S. News
Flight 93 victim's daughters remember dad as man who died bravely

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

By Steve Levin, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Soon after she moved to Little Rock, Ark., from California last summer, Deena Burnett noticed that the framed photos of her late husband, Tom, had disappeared from the bedside tables of her girls, twins Madison and Halley, who are 6, and Anna Clare, who is 5.

Several times, Burnett, whose husband helped lead the charge against the terrorist hijackers of United Flight 93, found the photos of Tom under the girls' beds or in dresser drawers.

She asked Halley what was going on. "Mommy, the picture makes me so sad I don't want to see it now," Halley said.

When the other two girls said the same, Burnett set aside drawers in each of the girl's rooms for the photos of their father.

Before her January trip to Germany to testify at the trial of Mounir el Motassadeq, 28, a veteran of one of Osama bin Laden's training camps in Afghanistan and admitted close friend of key 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, she sat the three girls down.

"I actually did tell them that they caught one of the guys who was instrumental in killing their father," said Burnett, 38.

Can he hurt us, the girls wondered?

"If I don't go," Burnett told them, "there's a chance they may not put him in jail."

"The response from all three was: 'We want you to go.'"

The girls are very open in discussing their father's death with classmates and teachers, Burnett said. They include their father in their drawings, either drawing him standing with the four of them or as an angel surrounded by bright light watching over them.

Recently, Burnett chaperoned her daughters while they sold Girl Scout cookies. At one house, while Burnett watched from the street, Halley and Anna Clare spent an inordinate amount of time chatting with the woman who answered the door. Burnett moved closer.

"Halley was just telling her the story of Flight 93 and about how her dad was Tom Burnett," she said. "Halley said, 'My Dad jumped on the terrorists and he's a hero.' "

Anna Clare, who had been standing patiently, finally spoke.

"OK," she said. "Enough of that. How many cookies do you want to buy?"

The girls sold all of their 145 boxes in 45 minutes.

Steve Levin can be reached at slevin@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1919.

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