MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Some of the loudest applause heard at TCF Bank Stadium Saturday wasn’t for the Minnesota Gophers home opener, but for a Minnesota native and American hero on the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Several events at the university honored University of Minnesota graduate Tom Burnett Jr., of Bloomington, Minn., who died in the crash of United Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. Burnett was one of the passengers who rushed the cockpit and foiled the plans of the hijackers to crash the jetliner in Washington, D.C. — possibly into the White House.
The University of Minnesota Athletics Department hosted a special recognition of Burnett at the end of the first quarter.
As his family took the field, the stadium cheered and stood in remembrance of Burnett’s sacrifice.
Burnett was also president of Alpha Kappa Psi, a business fraternity on campus. Saturday members and fellow alumni hosted his mother, father and sister in a special tribute to Burnett, who leaves a legacy of education at his fraternity by providing many scholarships.
Since his death, students like freshman David Sabel, of Eagan, Minn., now receive full tuition and housing scholarships in Burnett’s name.
“It’s of like an obligation to succeed, you don’t want to let him down,” said Sabel, who was the 2011 recipient of Burnett’s annual scholarship at Alpha Kappa Psi.
“That is what Tommy was all about, was education, he would continually educate his family. We could always expect a book at a birthday or Christmas time, all kinds of books,” said his mother, Beverly, who says she carries grief over his death with her every day.
When Burnett courageously challenged hijackers that day, he called his wife four times saying, “We’re going to do something.” Now at the U of M and beyond, his last words ring true a decade later, where Tom Burnett clearly has done so much more.
“I hope that people are inspired to do good in their life,” said his sister Mary Jurgens. “It just really opens our hearts with so much love and support from other Minnesotans reaching out to one another, and I hope that people are inspired to do good in their life. Each and every day we are all called to do something.”
Burnett’s other sister went to Shanksville, Penn., Saturday where victims of Flight 93 were remembered in a memorial ceremony.