After discovering special connection to 9/11, Minnesota woman honors the fallen

Mariah Jacobsen recalls watching the horrifying events of September 11th, 2001, unfold on a television screen in her American history class at Cretin-Derham Hall High School. 

She had no idea about her direct connection until several years later.

Adopted as a baby, she learned at age 19 that her biological father was Tom Burnett, Jr., a hero aboard United Flight 93. He was one of the passengers to storm the cockpit and bring down the aircraft in rural Pennsylvania, far from its presumed target in Washington, D.C.

Burnett was killed, and Mariah later visited the hallowed crash site that has since become a memorial.

"It was difficult. It was difficult to go to Shanksville and know that just overhead, my father had given his life to save others. To stand in that exact spot was incredibly emotional and powerful," she said.

Even though Mariah never had a relationship with her father, his actions that day have inspired her.

Over a cell phone call to his wife from the plane, he said, "Don’t worry. We’re going to do something." Mariah later got a tattoo bearing those words.

She is also helping plan the state’s day of remembrance, a somber 20-year anniversary ceremony to be held this weekend on the Capitol grounds in St. Paul.

"That’s his legacy, a legacy of fortitude, decision-making, bravery. Those are the things I try to remember in my daily life."

The ceremony starts at 9 a.m. on Sept. 11 at the state capitol and is open to everyone. At 7:30 a.m., the group will read the names of Minnesota 9/11 families and Minnesotans who were subsequently killed during military service.