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Bloomington Students Learn From Alumnus, 9/11 Hero

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BLOOMINGTON (WCCO) – The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America are hitting close to home in Minnesota.

Tom Burnett, who grew up in Bloomington, was one of the United Flight 93 passengers who revolted against terrorist hijackers. The plane later crashed in a Pennsylvania field, killing everybody aboard.

Burnett graduated from Bloomington Jefferson High School, where he was the quarterback for the football team. He also attended Hubert Olson Middle School in Bloomington and Ridgeview Elementary.

On Friday, all 870 students who attend the middle school studied 9/11, and some of them learned about Burnett.

“It’s something very different from our normal class,” said sixth grade social studies teacher, Paul Lessner. “The first thing we’re going to talk about is, ‘what is a hero?’”

Lessner’s students watched a news report on Burnett and his life, along with reaction from his wife, parents and other family members on his death. They then discussed what they saw.

“He liked to play sports. He was an adventurous man,” said one student.

The news report talked about how the plane later crashed in a field, far from its intended target. Students learned about Burnett’s plan to fight back — with three other men — against the hijackers, which is now part of the curriculum.

“Yeah, he did save lives and I think that’s why he’s a hero,” said another student. “He saved lives, but said goodbye to his wife.”

“Tom’s story is very inspirational. The way that he saw a problem, identified it, made a plan, got up and he did something about it. And that’s what I want my students to take away from this,” said Lessner. “I want them to look for problems in their community or country, get up and do something about it.”

Lessner has turned the tragedy into a learning opportunity and an actual assignment for his class, leaning on Burnett as their guide.

“It was amazing,” said student Erik Beckers. “He wasn’t just willing to sit there.”

Burnett’s actions likely did save lives. It’s the good side of 9/11 that is often overlooked, but never to be forgotten in American history.

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