Father of 9/11 hero Tom Burnett Jr. dies at 93

Tom Burnett, Sr., a longtime Richfield Public Schools teacher and father of 9/11 hero Tom Burnett, Jr., passed away in February at the age of 93. Those across Minnesota and the world knew him as an outspoken champion for justice and a central figure in the fight against terrorism following 9/11.

But Martha Pettee knew him first as "Dad".

For three decades, Burnett Sr. taught English and ESL in Richfield Public Schools. But on September 11, 2001, his life was upended by the death of his beloved son, Tom Burnett Jr.

Tom Jr. helped prevent the hijacked United 93 flight from reaching its destination in Washington DC, saving countless lives.

"Any parent losing a child... it's horrendous. They aren't supposed to go before you do and this was a huge global event, so it was super difficult to just comprehend all of that," said Pettee.

In 2002, Tom Sr. became the lead plaintiff for the victims of 9/11 in a $3 trillion lawsuit against Sudan and Saudi Arabia, claiming they bankrolled Al-Queda and allowed the attacks to take place.

He also helped establish the Tom Burnett Leadership Program and scholarships at the University of Minnesota, where his son was a graduate. On Wednesday night, the next generation gathered at the U, continuing to live out the legacy of Tom Jr.

The program helps students learn about citizenship and how to be leaders in their fields, things Tom Sr. believed were critical to fighting terror in our world.

"Like any father wanting to carry on his legacy in a meaningful way, the truth was really important to him and what Tom's memories meant...and that's why this program is so important," said Devin O'Brien, grandson of Tom Sr.

Tom Sr. is survived by his two daughters, Martha and Mary Margaret, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.