A tribute: Minnesota remembers her son

Minnesota is a cold and formidable land. Her winters chase the unprepared and uninitiated to warmer climates; her summers reward the strong and steadfast who remain. She laps at her land with crystal waters innumerable, and rivers immeasurable. Birds of brilliant plumage dart from tree to tree in her meadows, and scratch their bellies on her prairie grasses.

Her bounty produces the finest in livestock and crop, and her skies are clean and blue. From her loins a rare and honest breed, noble, proud and kind spring up and infect those they meet with their humor and honor. If ever they can bear the thought of leaving her, they are snapped up by those around us near and far. Her peoples are not afraid of hard work, and they will not tolerate less than a best effort.

She is a land of learning and a land of plenty; opportunity and recreation are columns in her proud architecture. Built by the bricks of selflessness and sacrifice she rises above her neighbors as an example of an inland state. And she does not forget her laborers, she does not forget her daughters and she will not forget her son.

Paul Bunyan is rumored to have called her his home; perhaps he did. But there is a bigger man who spent his formative years here and learned to see the world through eyes keened by gazing through endless forests and scanning the depths of mirrored lakes.  A man whose hair was blown by her winds and whose bare feet were cut running in the expanses of her rolling fields.

Frighteningly intelligent and deeply religious, a man without fear, Mark Burnett Jr. knew that with faith, fear was irrelevant. And he would know relevance. He was one of those sons, enticed away by promises of great adventure. To a company that mended hearts, no less; he was as good a businessman as any hard-nosed New Yorker. But he would never be a cruel man; his ambition would never be his passion. His pursuits crisscrossed

him around the country so often he would propose to a stewardess and his father would be the best man in his wedding.

Minnesota’s spell is woven so as to value life above all else. Her sons grow up in a land teeming with fish in all the waters, animals in all the forests and birds in all the sky. It is no surprise they so jealously protect it.

Was he shocked when men aboard his plane stabbed another passenger? When they rose up and took the plane from its crew, did those men slaughter the pilots as their comrades slaughtered thousands in the largest city in the United States? What would have gone through your mind as you sat quietly in your seat and handed over control of your own life to a suicide squad so brainwashed and disturbed that they take pleasure in the murder of women and children at the low cost of their own existence?

What would you do?

Think like a quarterback. Think like a 6-foot-2-inch, 205-pound playmaker. Gather information and flesh out the defense. “What’s their plan?” “Were the planes in New York passenger jets?” When would you realize you were not bargaining chips; instead, you were ammunition? What would you do?

We all know the answer Burnett came up with. We will never know where the plane was headed. Who else’s children would have been going home to motherless homes or fatherless lives? We can be assured that Washington or New York would be mourning more of their children had not a few brave souls valued the lives of others above their own and retaken their fate.

We may rest assured that terrorists could not kill the people of Flight 93, and they could not kill Mark Burnett Jr. Only he could, because he was better than they were, just like anyone who knows the value of sacrifice and the sanctity of life.

Thank you, Beverly and Mark Burnett Sr., for your son. He is a credit to his state, his family and himself. The world needs men like him and is a poorer place without him.

Jared Roddy is a journalism and anthropology senior. He welcomes comments at [email protected]