Welcome, one and all.
We are gathered here this evening, just as so many gathered one year ago after dusk on a cold February evening, to find comfort in the company of friends.
We are thinking tonight about all those touched by last year’s events, and we are reflecting on the year that has passed – a year in which the numbers 2/14 were never far from mind.
We commemorate anniversaries as a way of making sense of things, trying to apply order where, sometimes, there can be none. When we mark time, when we view an event through the prism of days, we are sometimes surprised at the intensity of our feelings.
All week, we have been asked, How do you feel, “one year later.”
How NIU is doing, “one year later.”
What are our thoughts, “one year later?”
Each of us has different answers to those questions, but here is what I’ve said, and what I believe:
One year after the worst day in our history, NIU remains determined to not let an act of violence define us.
One year after the loss of five wonderful people, we have taken inspiration from stories of their lives and the strength of their characters.
Twelve months after an unspeakable tragedy, we are much closer as a campus community – much more focused on each other.
Random acts of kindness abound at a university where the only answer to hate is love.
One year later, we continue to be warmed by the embrace of our larger community. The citizens of DeKalb and Sycamore have rallied around us: Our students are their students, and our employees their neighbors.
One year later, we understand the importance of sharing our feelings. Many of us need to talk, and need to be heard. We have learned that healing is a unique journey for every individual, and that shared experience builds strong bonds.
One year later, we are changed. We have been given the bittersweet gift of perspective: We know what is important, and what is not.
Tonight we light candles of remembrance and healing.
The lighting of fire is an ancient ritual: We light candles to chase away the darkness, to illuminate our paths, to warm ourselves from the winter chill.
Tonight, let our flames burn bright – if even for just a minute – and let those lights send a message into the heavens.
We are here.
We love each other.
We will never forget.
We are NIU.
Five students with us this evening will lead us in the ceremonial lighting of the candles. Each of these students belongs to an organization in which one of our fallen Huskies was involved.
As they light their candles from the five memorial flames, they will pass that flame on to each of you.
And now, let us join together in a moment of silence.
Thank you, one and all, for being here this evening – your presence sustains us. Please join us now indoors for a brief reception in a warmer space. God bless you all, and God bless NIU.