Debra Burlingame

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Debra Burlingame
Debra Burlingame wraps herself in the flag.jpg
Born 1954 (age 63–64)
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Residence Westchester County, New York[1]
Known for
Board member of World Trade Center Memorial Foundation[2]
Spouse(s) Robert Fraina (m. 2003)[3]
Relatives Charles Burlingame (brother)

Debra Burlingame (born 1954) is an American lawyer and political activist. She is the sister of Charles "Chic" Burlingame III, the pilot of the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 that was flown into The Pentagon during the September 11 attacks by Al Qaeda terrorists in 2001.[4]

Early life[edit]

Burlingame was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and moved frequently as a daughter of an active duty member of the United States Air Force. She spent parts of her childhood in California and England.[5][a]

Early education and career[edit]

Burlingame is a graduate of New York University and Cardozo School of Law.[4] She is a former airline flight attendant for Trans World Airlines,[1] lawyer[4] and television producer[6] at Court TV (before it became truTV) for 5 years, before moving to Los Angeles.[3]

September 11 attacks[edit]

On the morning of the September 11 attacks in 2001, Burlingame was living in Los Angeles. She planned to start her own production company in Los Angeles, shortly before the September 11 attacks.[1] Debra's brother, Charles Burlingame, was the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, with First Officer David Charlebois, before it was hijacked and flown into the Pentagon.[7]

On the second anniversary of the attack, Burlingame launched a nonprofit foundation that will provide college scholarships for young men and women who wish to pursue careers as officers in the United States armed services. "We are targeting young people who have demonstrated a wish to be a part of something bigger than themselves," said Burlingame.[8]


Burlingame was the inspiration for blogger Robert Shurbet[9] to start Take Back The Memorial, a non-profit group that opposed the International Freedom Center (IFC) being located at the World Trade Center site.[10] Burlingame is a columnists and political activist, and also a World Trade Center Memorial Foundation board member.[4] Based upon the efforts of Burlingame and others, Governor of New York George Pataki barred the IFC from being located at the World Trade Center site.[11] As a result, the IFC is now abandoned by its sponsors.[b]

Surviving relatives of the 9-11 victims were invited to submit their names for a lottery to see who would be invited to attend the hearings and trials of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four other most senior captives.[12] Six families were to be drawn, at random. Burlingame's name was one of the six chosen.

The Wall Street Journal has published numerous opinion columns written by Burlingame.[13] She also published columns on New York Daily News.[14]

In October 2009, Burlingame co-founded, with Liz Cheney, a non-profit 501(c)4 organization called Keep America Safe.[6] The organization drew strong criticism from conservative lawyers, many of which had worked for the Bush administration.[15] Shortly after, all public information about the organization disappeared from Internet.[16] Thereafter, Burlingame founded the 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America with Tim Sumner.[2] The organization is about 9/11 family members who view national security as the country’s top priority.[17]

Political positions[edit]

Anti–Islamic statements[edit]

Burlingame is a critic of Islam. In 2010, she issued a press release denouncing President Barack Obama’s support of the “Ground Zero Mosque.”[18] She wrote, "Demolishing a building that was damaged by wreckage from one of the hijacked planes in order to build a mosque and Islamic Center will further energize those who regard it as a ratification of their violent and divinely ordered mission: the spread of shariah law and its subjugation of all free people, including secular Muslims who come to this country fleeing that medieval ideology, which destroys lives and crushes the human spirit."[19]

Burlingame also wrote a letter attacking the Liam Neeson film Non-Stop because the hijacker in the film is a murderous 9/11 family member and military combat veteran and “worse, the flight’s quiet hero who comes to the aid of the protagonist, thereby saving the day, is a Muslim doctor.”[20] Ms. Burlingame noted that this was "ironic" given the fact that the Al Qaeda's leader, Ayman Al Zawahiri, is a doctor, a "complete inverse of the roles between victim and victimizer on 9/11".[21]

The National September 11 Memorial and Museum Foundation issued a statement in response to the Council on American Islamic Relations' call for Ms. Burlingame to be removed from the foundation's board. It read:

“The National September 11 Memorial & Museum has the privilege of having a committed board of directors who have brought leadership and diverse perspectives to this project. This board is comprised of 9/11 families, witnesses and survivors. The members are from the business and private sector and beyond,” 9/11 Memorial President Joe Daniels said. “As someone whose brother was killed aboard the plane in the attack on the Pentagon, Debra Burlingame stands as one of the most committed, and her contributions over the years have helped build a special place that honors the memory of the victims, preserves the history of 9/11 and presents the facts of a horrific tragedy. We are honored to have this woman serve on this board. Debra and all of the board members have been crucial in building a nationally significant institution that will be experienced by the world for years to come.


  1. ^ This source claims her brother was the son of an active duty member of the United States Air Force, and spent parts of his childhood in California and England. Since they are siblings, this would be also true for her.
  2. ^ the International Freedom Center was never built.


  1. ^ a b c "Safe at Home Interviews Debra Burlingame". Family Security Matters. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Author: Debra Burlingame". Family Security Matters. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Finn, Robin (12 August 2005). "Fighting for the Underlying Meaning of Ground Zero". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Debra Burlingame". 9/11 Memorial. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  5. ^ Nelson, Todd, Phillip Pina (September 12, 2001). "Twin Citians Mourn, Await News of Victims". Saint Paul Pioneer Press. 
  6. ^ a b "Keep America Safe". Right Web. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  7. ^ National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (2004). "Chapter 1". 9/11 Commission Report. Government Printing Office. 
  8. ^ "Charles Frank Burlingame III". Arlington Cemetery. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  9. ^ Archived from the original on May 22, 2006. Retrieved April 6, 2006.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ Schuerman, Matthew (August 15, 2005). "Embattled Libeskind Defends Controversial W.T.C. Museum". the Observer. 
  11. ^ Dunlap, David W. (September 28, 2005). "Pataki Bars Museum From World Trade Center Memorial Site". The New York Times. 
  12. ^ "Anger, frustration as 9/11 victims' families watch terror defendants try to undermine hearing". The Republic. 2012-05-06. Archived from the original on 2012-05-17. Retrieved 2012-05-06. Six victims' families chosen by lottery traveled to Guantanamo to see the arraignment in person. 
  13. ^ Burling, Debra (May 30, 2012). "The 9/11 Memorial Museum Held Hostage: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey demands more money from a charitable foundation before it will finish construction". The Wall Street Journal. 
  14. ^ Burlingame, Debra (11 September 2007). "We must always remember: Terror attacks were an act of war, not simply a tragedy to be mourned". New York Daily News. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  15. ^ Smith, Ben (March 8, 2010). "Republicans scold Liz Cheney". Politico. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  16. ^ Brown, Hayes (17 July 2013). "Liz Cheney, Degra Burlingame-Founded Neocon Group Quietly Scrubbed From The Internet". ThinkProgress. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  17. ^ "About: 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America". Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  18. ^ "Burlingame After Meeting With Obama: He Turned His Back On Me". Real Clear Politics. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  19. ^ Sumner, Timothy "Tim" (14 August 2010). "Debra Burlingame: 9/11 Families Stunned by President's Support of Mosque at Ground Zero". 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  20. ^ "Universal Studio's new release Non stop demeans 9/11 families, degrades combat veterans and advances Islam". Florida Family Association. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  21. ^ Obeidallah, Dean (28 April 2014). "The 9/11 Museum's Muslim Problem". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  22. ^ Hoffmann, Bill (23 May 2014). "9/11 Activist Burlingame: CAIR Targeting Me for Telling Truth". NewsMax. 

External links[edit]