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OC-based pilot of Pentagon jet crash on 9/11 remembered

September 10, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
One of the pilots of the jet that crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 grew up in Orange County. A decade later, the emotional wounds for his family are still fresh.

While the Twin Towers were still burning in New York, American Airlines Flight 77 flew into the symbol of the nation's military power. A hijacker controlled the jetliner as it hit the Pentagon at more than 500 miles per hour.

Capt. Charles Burlingame, or Chic, was a Navy veteran who grew up in Anaheim and spent years stationed at the Pentagon. He was killed by the four hijackers in the plane's cockpit. It is believed they might have also been targeting the White House or Congress.

Chic Burlingame was a Navy combat fighter pilot who flew F-4 Phantom Jets for eight years and spent 17 years as a pilot at American.

His brother Brad, who still lives in Anaheim, has watched and heard the Pentagon re-creation which was developed from information in the black box retrieved in the wreckage.

"A little after 6 a.m. California time, you could see there was just an awful struggle going on in the cockpit. The plane had been flying very, very smoothly. Suddenly it was turbulent and all over the place. Up and down, the wings dipping violently. The plane was out of control and that occurrence lasted for almost five minutes," described Brad Burlingame.

Of the 184 people who died in the Pentagon wreckage, 63 were on Flight 77. The people who died in the Pentagon could very well have been friends of pilot Chic Burlingame.

"What we saw in that animation from the recorder was clearly a fight for your life, hand-to-hand combat in my mind. Obviously they were overcome," said Brad Burlingame. "My brother was violently murdered in the cockpit of his plane."

Chic Burlingame's family had to get an Act of Congress to get him buried at Arlington National Cemetery. That's because Burlingame would have turned 52 the day after he was killed, and the Arlington rules require a veteran to be 60 unless the death is in combat.

There were only two things belonging to Chic Burglingame that were found in the Pentagon wreckage, according to his brother - Chic Burlingame's passport and a charred and torn copy of a prayer he carried. The card was from his mother's funeral a few months earlier.

Brad Burlingame said he just can't distance himself from the constant, vivid memories.

"September 11 for me has never gone away. I have daily reminders of it whether it's in the media, or in business meetings or personal reminders, it's there," said Brad Burlingame.

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