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Heroes Garden

Heroes Garden Rock - Pepperdine University


Located at one of the highest points on the Malibu campus, the Thomas E. Burnett, Jr., Heroes Garden stands as an outdoor chapel, a place of honor, reflection, and especially, remembrance. It is meant to be a peaceful place in a turbulent world. It will serve many purposes, perhaps some that we do not even envision.


Heroes Garden was envisioned and designed to permanently remind citizens of the unprovoked attacks of September 11, 2001, when three hijacked jetliners were flown into the World Trade Center towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC A fourth hijacked jetliner was crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. In all, nearly 3,000 souls were lost in a single day. The site of the garden was dedicated on September 11, 2002, and then opened to the public on September 11, 2003. In 2011, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Pepperdine University, Deena Burnett Bailey, and her family rededicated this outdoor sanctuary as the Thomas E. Burnett, Jr., Heroes Garden, honoring in perpetuity our Graziadio School alumnus and hero who put America first that fateful day.

The garden presents us with six steps that lead to the entrance. Six is an incomplete number, just short of the perfect number of seven. It symbolizes the shortened and incomplete lives of both individuals and structures. At the entrance is a low basin, the Cauldron of 9/11, that barely contains a fountain of roiling water, reminding us of the tumultuous events of that tragic day.

To the left is a boulder, native to this spot, on which is engraved a quotation from Deena Burnett Bailey, widow of Thomas E. Burnett, Jr., a Pepperdine alumnus and a victim aboard United Flight 93—but more than a victim. He also is a hero who was among those who attacked the hijackers, thwarting their mission to fly the fourth aircraft into yet another national target in Washington, DC Thus Tom Burnett and the others aboard Flight 93 were the first Americans to strike back against international terrorism on 9/11.

Stone walls, grassy mounds, trees, and native plant life separate us from the busy world around us. A narrow channel of water, the Stream of Conflict, runs from the fountain down the length of the walk ahead. The walkway crosses the stream three times and reminds us that our most challenging difficulties must be faced and conquered. Boulders along the way are inscribed with six quotations that encourage us on the garden walk.

We step into the Room of Turmoil, the first of three "rooms" formed by the walls and earth berms. For some people, the rooms will represent the three structures that were attacked on 9/11. After passing several boulders, two more of which feature quotations, we must cross the stream.

We move into the Room of Sorrow. In this room is a teakwood bench on which to rest, remember, or meditate. The room offers yet another quotation to ponder before we step across the stream again. The stone floor of this outdoor sanctuary is made of beautiful randomly cut golden slabs, which, somewhere ahead, resolve themselves into a symmetrical pattern.

In the third room, the Room of Hope, we find another bench and a plaque embedded in the stone wall nearby as a memorial to the late Gary Strauss, beloved son of Al and Angie Strauss, whose gift made possible the garden. From the bench is a view toward the Plaza of Resolution, with its infinity pool and the ocean beyond.

As we leave the room, we pass a boulder with the fifth quotation, again words from Deena Burnett Bailey that welcome us to the plaza with its broad vista.

As we step down into the plaza, we notice a place of meditation to the left, away from the pool. Another bench is there, and next to it is a boulder with the final quotation, words so challenging that many will want to sit and ponder them for a time. Finally we stand before the infinity pool. It is calm and smooth, reflecting an American flag that snaps in the breeze above. But everywhere in the plaza, indeed everywhere in the garden, we hear cascading water. It is the sound of water as it tumbles over the edge of the infinity pool, the edge that meets the blue of the Pacific Ocean and merges with it. The sea seems to blend into eternity, where heroes and loved ones now make their home. This is a place of peace, of resolution, of smooth water. Yet the sound persists around us, echoing the loss we have sustained, a loss that will be remembered for as long as America has memory.

The last journey, exiting the garden, opens to our right. As we leave the sycamore grove and the Plaza of Resolution, we do so along a path that is engraved with the beloved words of the Twenty-third Psalm.

Walking back into our frenetic world, we are reminded—we are promised— that God is our shepherd and, with Him, all things are possible.

In the largest sense, the Thomas E. Burnett, Jr., Heroes Garden is dedicated to all those who live heroic lives. The inscription by Deena Burnett Bailey at the entrance to the plaza says, "Heroes can give their lives all at one time, or they can give a little each day." It is hoped that this special place will encourage future generations to never forget the cost of the terrorist attacks on a free America and to remember that freedom must be protected if it is to remain viable.

We can, in the midst of a tragedy, find God.

Deena Burnett Bailey

Widow of Flight 93 Hero and Pepperdine Alumnus Tom Burnett

None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.

President George W. Bush

September 11, 2001

The Statue of Liberty watched silently as two of her Manhattan towers collapsed and many of her children were lost. But her lamp is still raised high, the light still streaming.

Andrew K. Benton

President, Pepperdine University
April 9, 2002

Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for...or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.

President Ronald Reagan


Heroes can give their lives all at one time, or they can give a little each day.

Deena Burnett Bailey


Special thanks to the Pepperdine Heroes Garden Committee

  • Claudia Arnold
  • Stephen Carroll
  • Clark Cowan
  • Jerry Derloshon
  • Bill Henegar
  • Rick Leach
  • Abigail Salaway
  • Jill Venturi