Nearly six months after he delivered his “It Gets Better” speech, gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns broke down again Tuesday during a City Council meeting — this time as he remembered his younger brother who died a few weeks ago.
Cody Burns, 27, of Stephenville was killed March 12 when he lost control of his pickup on a dirt road in Erath County.
“It’s hard to find meaning in a loss like this, someone who’s 27 years old,” Joel Burns said, his voice wavering. “And I don’t want people to think that it was within God’s plan to take Cody. God didn’t cause that accident. God didn’t need another cowboy in Heaven and took Cody, but I do think it’s within God’s plan that we as human beings are compassionate and console one another through loss, and I have certainly experienced that in recent days, as has my family, and I want to thank so many of you for being there for all of us through this very difficult time.”
Burns also took the opportunity to promote seat belt use. He said his brother was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident because he didn’t believe in them.
“If you’re someone who believes in the myth that seat belts don’t save lives, I want you to reconsider, and I want you to talk to the people that you might know that don’t put on their seat belt,” Burns said. “Again, I don’t know that Cody would be alive today if he had his seat belt on, but I’ll tell you that the guy sitting next to him literally unbuckled his seat belt and he walked away from the wreck.”
Finally, Burns encouraged people to call their loved ones. He said he was at a bullying conference at the White House in Washington a few days before Cody’s death. After the conference, he texted with Cody, who had seen him on the news and wrote, “You didn’t make too much of a fool of yourself.” Joel Burns said he’ll cherish that text as his last communication with Cody.
Burns said he called his mom and dad and sister after the conference, but he put off calling Cody until the weekend because he had another appointment to get to.
“Man would I give anything to have that five-minute phone conversation that I didn’t have, that I put off for a couple days,” Burns said. “So if there is one other thing, other than wearing your seat belt, to take from this, I would encourage you if there’s somebody that it would just break your heart to go through life without having that five-minute conversation with, when this meeting is over you should give them a call.
“Cody’s life was an incredible one, and I will miss him every day,” Burns said. “I will miss him on happy days and I will miss him on sad days. He was indeed a miracle, and I thank everyone for your support in recent days.”
Mayor Mike Moncrief thanked Burns for his comments.
“As you always seem to do, you take a negative, and you try to add a lesson, whether that lesson is seat belts or whether it’s bullying or whether it’s contacting a loved one or someone you care about while you’re thinking about it and not as an afterthought,” Moncrief said. “That is something I think we all appreciate about you. As we adjourn today, we will do so in Cody’s honor.”