I’ve never written a tribute before. I don’t recall reading many either. So when I came to write this, a tribute to Charles Burlingame III who died on September 11 2001, amongst the things I found myself worrying about was whether or not there’s a particular format I should use. I’ve still not cleared that worry, but there are more piled up on top. In writing a tribute for a man I never knew and never will I find myself struggling with a deep sense of responsibility to do a good job. If it was a tribute for one of my family at least they would know me well enough to expect and forgive my mistakes, but in writing for a stranger – really writing with the family of that stranger in mind – the necessity to be as close as possible to perfection is so strong. Perhaps it is linked to the strength of the desire to let his family know that I care. Perhaps it is the link to the strength with which I feel we should all care. Perhaps it’s just because I do care – about Charles, about his wife and his daughter, his grandson, and all who knew and needed him in their lives. Whatever the reason, the truth is that I cannot write anything that can possibly convey the true meaning of a life that was taken. All I can do is write a few lines to prove that we still care for a stranger and those he left behind.
So this is a tribute to the life of Charles Frank Burlingame III and those lives that with his were intertwined.
Charles Frank "Chic" Burlingame III
Legend has it that Charles was mad about aviation from an early age. At just six years old he created his first plane out of some wood he found in an alleyway behind his home in England. His dreams were to be realised.
Chic attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. He learned to fly F-4 Phantoms and experienced the thrill of taking off and landing from an aircraft carrier.
Through determination and joy he realised his dreams, serving 25 years of active and reserve service as a U.S. Navy jet fighter pilot. Even after the Navy, less than a year before that tragic day, Chic continued as a pilot for American Airlines. As pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which was crashed into the Pentagon, he is known to many for the day he died at just 51 years of age. For those that knew him he is known not for one day but for thousands and the place he filled within those lives on every single one – A loved son, husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle and friend.
Let us never forget that on September 11th 2001 it was not just a list of names that died. It was real people with real families. Remembering these people as individuals is how we must pay tribute. Remember who they were to those that partook in their unique experience of life. Chic was a much loved father who inspired the strength to take up the fight after he had fallen. He was not just a name but a very real and necessary set of heart felt connections in the lives of many. He was a child who grew to realise his dreams. He was alive. He was needed.
Now, he is missed.
On this day it is an honour for me to be entrusted to say a few words for a man I never knew. I reach out to those Chic left behind and I want you to know that I can never know what was taken from you on that day but that I feel very deeply for your loss. All I know is that for you he was someone irreplaceable. I know that, for you, Chic was so much more than a name and a photograph and a history. For you he was and will always remain a vital part of your lives.
I want you to know that I and many millions across the world today are thinking of you and a life that was cut short. My thoughts are with you. My hope is that as time goes by you can remember the joy of Chic within your lives. We will remember your loss.
We will never forget.
Chic's tribute on the Arlington cemetary web site can be read here
This tribute is just one of many organised as a tribute to the victims of 9/11. The 2,996 Project, which features links to a tribute for each and every victim of that awful day, can be found here. Please take some time in your day to visit and read. Remember those that were taken and the families and friends they left behind. Let them know that they are still in our hearts and minds. Let them know that we will not forget.
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