My wife Patti and I want to extend our condolences and deepest sympathies to the parents, to the brothers and sisters, to the loved ones of those who were taken from us. They remain in our prayers. May God embrace them and watch over them. We offer our prayers and support to those heroically recovering from their injuries, to the students, and to the entire Northern Illinois University community, and we join you as you move forward, together forward, to comfort one another, to heal and to return this university to its proper place of higher learning.
Ten days ago in the late afternoon and into the evening under a calm, cold and cloudy sky, heaven welcomed five souls. It is said, in honor of those who die, that their memories should be a blessing.
We remember those we lost for their promise, for their youth, and for the dreams they had -- Daniel, Catalina, Ryanne, Julianna, and Gayle -- lives of great achievement and even greater possibility. Danielís dying act was to protect his girlfriend. Julianna served her country in the Army. Both Julianna and Catalina wanted to teach. Ryanne wanted to be a counselor. Gayle was a gifted musician. Now they are lost, but still loved.
Their memory is a blessing. Not just because of their spirit and intelligence, their love and their laughter, their curiosity and their friendship. Their memory is a blessing because it compels us all to search for meaning. How could something so cruel, so arbitrary, so unfair happen to five such wonderful people? How do the families and loved ones handle the loss or deal with what the poet described as pain that will not forget pain that falls drop by drop upon the heart? How can they ease their pain? Where can they put their grief? How can we help?
There are no simple answers that will magically heal the pain or tell us exactly what to do and perhaps that is part of the meaning. Our challenge is not to understand fully Godís design but to live within it to our fullest.
This is a sad and almost unbearable, unbearably difficult time. A time for all of us to hold dear those we love and to remember how precious is the gift of life.
In our own way, each of us can make the memory of those we lost a blessing, by capturing some of their promise, their decency, their innocence, their optimism, and holding that next to our hearts. Teach a child. Make some music. Serve your country. Hold the hand of someone you love. Live, in some small way, the life they would have continued to live and in so doing, their memory can in ways big and small repair our world as the heavens welcome them into the world to come.