The Darkest Night Brings the Brightest Stars: Lights of Love, Joy, Hope, and Courage
Remarks as delivered.
Each year you gather here together, in rain, sleet, snow, and sunshine, to mark the lives of those you lost 27 years ago. And each year, the full force of your loss strikes at the very heart of you.
Time does not heal all wounds. There is a hole in your heart that will never heal. The years may pass, but grief never fully dissipates. Closure is a myth. Loss never disappears. The pain may become less sharp. Laughter may come more readily. And memories may be sweeter. But your heart can never be made whole again.
Yet we have all come to learn that the loss of a loved one is not the end. I don’t speak merely in a spiritual sense, though I hope that with each passing year, you have found comfort and solace in your own way, whatever your beliefs may be.
I’m speaking of the impact of our loved ones on those of us left behind. How they changed us while they lived. How we were changed by their loss.
Today marks the winter solstice. The longest night of the year. It’s a time of transition—of darkness versus light, of the depths of winter against the promise of the coming spring.
For you, this is the darkest of days. It is the longest of nights. And on this day, the coming spring seems too far away.
In the words of Robert Frost, you have been one acquainted with the night.
You have walked out in rain, and back in rain.
You have out-walked the furthest city light.
You have looked down the saddest city lane.
You may have felt compelled to remain in the darkness. And that would have been easy to understand.
Yet you have chosen to move forward, when it would have been easier to turn from this tragedy, to seek peace in a more private way.
Instead, you have chosen to not let evil hold the field. You have sought justice. You have improved aviation security. You have kept this act of terrorism in the public eye.
You have changed the way victims of terrorism and their loved ones are treated by government officials and by responsible parties.
And you have stood by other families who have lost their loved ones—too many families and too many loved ones.
Through your perseverance and your devotion, you have shown by the truest example how we must respond to terrorism.
We must always seek truth and justice, no matter how long it takes, and no matter where that search might take us.
We must work together, here at home and around the world, to ensure that our citizens, our communities, and our families are safe and sound.
And we must live without fear, as we work toward a future that is free from hatred and violence.
There is no doubt that you have been one acquainted with the darkest of nights. But the darkest night brings the brightest stars.
A single star can both defy and define the darkness. And a sky full of stars can cast the most breathtaking glow, rendering the once- terrifying darkness but a backdrop for truth and beauty, lighting the way to everything that is real and lasting.
You have chosen that light.
You have insisted on being that light in our darkness.
* * *
I am always of search of good writing—of powerful and lasting words that can bring hope and joy where it may seem there is only fear and destruction.
The other day, I read a benediction by the Reverend Anne Hallmark of the Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Middleburg, Virginia—words she wrote to mark the Advent season.
She spoke of the power of light against the darkness. And whatever our differing faiths or abiding beliefs, her words offer solace and comfort.
As she so eloquently said:
May these lights shine for all of us,
As lights of joy despite all sadness,
As lights of hope where despair keeps watch,
As lights of courage when fear is present,
As lights of peace for tempest-tossed days,
As lights of grace to ease heavy burdens,
As lights of love to inspire all our living.
May we remember these words as the darkness falls and the stars once again shine so brightly around us. And may we remember the love of those we have lost, and the light they brought to our lives.
Thank you for allowing me to share this day with you.