Good evening. I’m John Peters, President of Northern Illinois University. Tonight I welcome you to this service of remembrance.
Looking around, I see the families of those who are affected so deeply by this tragedy, by our students, faculty and staff who have returned to campus, by our neighbors and friends, by federal, state and local officials, and even by others beyond the NIU family who are here simply because they were moved by what happened on this campus and feel the need to be with us tonight.
The enormous outpouring of love we have experienced this past week reminds us that this community … this state … this nation …this world are connected to each other in fundamental, unchanging ways.
More than 500 years ago, the great poet John Donne expressed this thought in these lines:
No man is an island, entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind;
I think of these words this evening, as I look around this vast arena and reach out to the audiences in homes and places across the country and world.
Our tragedy has touched people in all walks of life; and in all corners of our world. The massive outpouring of concern, countless offers of assistance, and unstoppable movement of people wanting to join in our grief and healing …remind us that we are members of a larger community that has been forever changed. It is difficult to overstate the reach and impact of this tragic event. This past week, I have seen both despair and hope.
I have seen the deep sorrow of the five victims’ families; yet I have seen your courage & strength. I have seen the students from the class, who sustained physical & emotional injuries; yet I see your courage to heal & continue pursuing your life goals.
I have seen the anxieties & continuing repercussions for all Northern Illinois students & their families; yet you are preparing to resume your studies tomorrow morning.
I have seen the faculty & staff’s grief and frustration; yet I see your diligent preparations to provide strength, support & comfort to your students, come Monday morning.
I have seen the shock & disbelief of Northern alumni upon hearing of this tragedy; yet you are reaching out to offer help in any way you can.
I have seen the shock & dismay of the DeKalb and Sycamore communities; yet you have provided love and support for the returning students and the entire NIU community.
And I have seen the concern of universities across the nation and world, to protect their students; yet we were overwhelmed by their outpouring of compassion & support for Northern Illinois.
So for all those who seek healing, your presence here tonight wraps us in a warm embrace and reminds us that we are not alone.
We are not islands, but bridges – bridges to each other and to the world. In the days and weeks ahead, let our message to the world be one of hope … healing … and of the indomitable Huskie spirit. In the end, that is how all of us can honor the memories of the five beautiful, young people who are not with us this evening.