To President Peters;
To the students and members of the Northern Illinois University family;
To those who worked heroically to save lives and heal the wounded;
To those who volunteered to help in this season of sorrow;
Most of all to those wounded in body and spirit by this tragedy at Cole Hall and to the heartbroken friends and families of those who were lost, on behalf of my colleagues, Senator Barack Obama, Congressman Don Manzullo, Congressman Peter Roskam, Congresswoman Melissa Bean, Congressman Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois Congressional delegation and the United States Congress, know that we share your tears and we join in your prayers.
You are not alone.
From that tragic moment on February 14th, America has been with you. If there are any who question the capacity of our people to love and the courage to face tragedy squarely, I say come to DeKalb, Illinois, come to Northern Illinois University.
This great university will rise from this sad moment to be ever stronger, and even more committed to changing this world for the better. Tomorrow, lessons will be taught again in the classrooms, but tonight, we reflect on the lessons of life we have learned since February 14th.
The Reverend William Sloane Coffin was a man who believed deeply in social justice. After his own son died too young, at the age of 19 in an automobile accident, Reverend Coffin spoke about his grief in a sermon to his congregation, and he said, “When parents die, they take with them a large portion of the past, but when children die, they take away the future as well."
The death of a young person is indeed a heavy cross to bear even when the cause is one that we understand or can at least name, cancer or some other terrible disease. Sadly, for now at least, we lack even that small comfort in understanding the deaths of these students. We hope that we will learn more, but we don’t need answers to all of our questions to give meaning to the lives of Gayle, Cati, Julianna, Ryanne and Danny.
It took this tragedy for many of us to really come to know them: Daniel, the gentle giant with the giving spirit; Cati, with the dream of making her family proud and one day teaching young children; Ryanne, always caring for others and with a goal to become a counselor to help those in need; Julianna, a commitment to America in our military and in the classroom; and Gayle, who touched so many lives and who had such a deep faith in God.
And now that we know so much more about them, we know something else: the caring, the courage and the joy that they brought to this world in their short lives and the good that they hoped to achieve do not have to end.
As we move forward together, let’s make room in our hearts for their dreams. Give a small part of our lives so that each of them can live on in us. In that way, death will not be the victor and their dreams will live on.