September 11, 2001
UNITED FLIGHT 93
Thomas E. Burnett, Jr.
[Washington Post 9/13/01]
Thomas E. Burnett Jr., senior vice president and chief operating officer of medical-device maker Thoratec Corp., was an athlete and a take-charge executive, a student of military history who kept busts of Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in his office. Thus it was no surprise that as the hijacking of United Flight 93 unfolded, he and some other passengers decided "to do something" to thwart it, they said.
Burnett, 38, had been in New Jersey visiting newly acquired company operations near Edison. He had been scheduled to return to California on an later flight, but his business wound up early and he seized a chance to get home sooner and spend more time with his family -- especially his three young daughters.
Thoratec chief executive D. Keith Grossman said yesterday that Burnett called his wife, Deena, on his cell phone three or four times over the course of 30 to 45 minutes, telling her of the hijacking and directing her to notify authorities. She in turn told him of what had already happened in New York.
"He was certainly a leader," Grossman said, but he ended up in a life-and-death struggle because "he simply wanted to get home earlier."
-- Albert B. Crenshaw