Deena Burnett Bailey of Little Rock tells her husband’s story about 9/11

Deena Burnett Bailey of Little Rock tells her husband’s story about 9/11

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported on Sept 10:

When Deena Burnett Bailey spoke of the last time she heard her late husband’s voice, the rattle of silverware against china, the whispers and the general noise of a luncheon ceased.

Bailey is the widow of Tom E. Burnett, who led resistance efforts on United Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001.

Deena Burnett Bailey, widow of Tom Burnett who orchestrated the resistance against the terrorists aboard Flight 93, talks during the Salvation Army Women's Auxiliary's God Bless America Luncheon on Wednesday at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn.PHOTO BY JIM WEBER
BUY THIS PHOTO »Deena Burnett Bailey, widow of Tom Burnett who orchestrated the resistance against the terrorists aboard Flight 93, talks during the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary’s God Bless America Luncheon on Wednesday at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn.

The story of Burnett’s heroism is still a difficult one to tell, Bailey said, especially so close to the anniversary. But she wants to share it to inspire others, she said.

Bailey is the co-author of “Fighting Back: Living Life Beyond Ourselves,” a book about her husband and the others who took action against the terrorists who held the passengers hostage on Flight 93.

Bailey and former New York City police officer Jim Shepherd spoke Wednesday at a Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary luncheon.

Bailey, now remarried and living in Little Rock, was living in California on Sept. 11. She was waiting with their three daughters for her husband to return from a business trip.

As Bailey watched the two terrorist-controlled planes collide with the World Trade Center in New York, Burnett called and told her he was on a third plane that had been hijacked, and that the hijackers had “already knifed a guy.” He told her to call the authorities.

Bailey called 911 and was eventually connected with the FBI.

Her husband called again, asking questions about the World Trade Center, and then a third time to tell her passengers were hatching a plan to overtake the plane.

He called one last time to say the passengers were waiting until the plane was over a rural area before moving in on the hijackers. While everyone on the airplane was ultimately killed, no one on the ground was injured when Flight 93 went down.

Now, Burnett is honored as an American hero. Bailey says it’s a word her husband felt was overused. She says he believed in making good choices and making a difference in the lives of others.

“Tom’s last words to me were ‘Do something.’ They ring true for each of us to stand up, fight back, do something,” she said.

For Shepherd, who now lives in Memphis, the fateful day began as he drank coffee at the gym. He saw the first airplane circle but assumed it was out of its flight pattern and looking for an airport.

“At the last moment I thought, ‘Oh my God I hope he misses the buildings,'” Shepherd said.

By the time he reached his precinct, the second plane had hit the South Tower.

Later, rescuers found three stories of the building compacted into a pile only 12 feet high, with easily distinguishable layers of concrete floor, carpet and debris, he said.

Shepherd thanked the Salvation Army, which marched quietly into New York and got to work.

“You really felt like you weren’t alone,” he said. “You had another army behind you to help.”

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