Brad Burlingame had plans to celebrate his older brother Charles F. Burlingame III’s, or “Chic’s,” birthday by going to a baseball game on September 12, 2001. Chic was the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77 that was set to fly from Virginia to Los Angeles where he would have met Brad the day before.
Shortly after taking off, Chic’s Boeing 757 was tragically forced to detour by the terrorists who intentionally flew it into the Pentagon, 14 years ago last Friday.
Brad Burlingame used to live in the Miracle Mile, and works in the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood. On Friday, he joined First-In Fire Foundation’s and the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition’s anniversary tribute that visited a monument for Chic and a tree that was planted to honor him at the Page Museum.
Lyn MacEwen Cohen, who organized the anniversary tribute, said it was inspired by the lives of the people who were lost, so that something good might come from something so tragic.
Cohen said the foundation and coalition wanted to honor Chic. They installed the monument in 2008. She met Burlingame at the site with ribbons, and they placed roses next to the monument.
Burlingame said he visits the memorial throughout the year.
“If I’m anywhere to close to it, it’s like a magnet for me,” he said.
Burlingame said he and Chic were very close.
“He’s my older brother. There were four kids in our family – all born within five years,” Burlingame said. “Chic was the eldest. I looked up to him. He was quite successful and ambitious and quite the role model for me. We spoke all the time.”
Burlingame said the day Chic died feels like it was just two or three years ago. He and his wife woke up early and they were drawn to the news coverage on television.
“I was immediately worried,” he said. “The first plane already crashed before 6 a.m. our time, about the time I woke up. [Chic’s] plane impacted at the Pentagon about an hour later.”
Shortly after, Burlingame received a phone call from Chic’s friend, another American Airlines pilot, who informed him that Chic’s plane crashed.
He explained that there was a lot of confusion after that. First, he was told that Chic’s plane was the second one that hit the World Trade Center in New York.
“All day long, they showed the video of that plane crashing,” he said. “It was absolutely awful thinking that was his plane.”
A few hours later, Burlingame received a phone call correcting the information.
He said one of the saddest memories was that the majority of the children whose lives were lost in the attacks were on Chic’s plane for a field trip. It’s noted on Chic’s memorial that the children were going to Santa Cruz Island for a nature study.
Though the outcome was tragic, Burlingame said the children had an “extraordinary hero” on the plane that day. He can say that with confidence after being invited to see an animation that was made using black box information recovered from the plane, which Brad said revealed what happened in Chic’s cockpit when it was hijacked.
“There was a fight in the cockpit that lasted over five minutes,” he said. “This is the point that my brother was fighting for his life and for the crew and passengers. My brother fought on that plane.”
Burlingame said he was hesitant at first because he didn’t know what the animation would reveal. But he was very curious.
“That experience really answered a lot of questions for me,” he said. “Knowing more info about what happened that day, it wasn’t closure, but it explained a lot to me.”
Burlingame said he gets positive feelings when he visits the memorial at the Page Museum, or any similar memorial.
“I am inspired by my brother,” he said. “I still get choked up by it. I think about who he was as a man and try to be as good as he was.”
Cohen said next year, for the 15th anniversary, First-In Fire Foundation and the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition will host a “much more involved” ceremony.
“It was great for [Brad] to see the community has not forgotten,” Cohen said.
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