Remarks by James Comey, FBI Director

Thank you Kathy, thank you folks for letting me be part of this. For 27 years you’ve gathered here in sleet and rain and cold and some sunshine, but each year, I’m sure the loss hits you with full force in the center of your heart. I’m somebody who believes that time does not heal all wounds. I believe that closure is a myth. I believe that years may pass but that grief never fully fades. The pain sure may become less sharp, memories may become sweeter, laughter may come easier, but your heart can never be made whole again. I think we have all come to learn that the loss of a loved one is not the end, and I don’t mean just in the spiritual sense, although I hope that with each passing year that you have found solace no matter what you believe, in your own beliefs. I’m speaking of the impact that our loved ones had on those left behind. How they changed us by how they lived and how we were changed by their loss.

Today marks the winter solstice as it has for you for 27 years. The longest night of the year. For a lot of folks it’s a time of transition. It’s darkness slowly giving way to light. It’s winter slowly offering the promise of spring. But for you, I believe this is the darkest of days in more than one sense. It is truly the longest of nights and on this day, spring seems too far away. In the words of Robert Frost, I believe,

You are ones who have become acquainted with the night

You have walked out in rain and back in rain

You have out walked the farthest city light

You have looked down the saddest city lane

It would be easy to understand if you were compelled to remain in that darkness, but you have somehow found the strength to move forward when it would have been a whole lot easier to turn from this tragedy and to seek peace in a private way. But instead, you have resolved in an inspirational way, to fight for some good to come from this unspeakable loss. Not so it is somehow worth it but so that evil doesn’t hold the eld. You have sought, you have fought for justice. You have changed our world. You have changed the way we approach security, the way we approach victims, the way we think about justice. And as Lisa said, you have stood with so many others who have suffered so, in the years since your loss. Through your perseverance and your devotion you have showed us what it means to fight, to not let evil hold the eld, and to teach us that we must always seek truth and justice no matter how long it takes and no matter where that search takes us. We must learn to live without fear. We must learn to walk together and work for a future that is free of hatred and violence. There is no doubt that you are people who are acquainted with the darkness of nights, but even the darkest nights bring bright stars. A single star can both defy and define the darkness. A sky full of stars can almost cast a breathtaking glow and turn that terrifying darkness into nothing but a backdrop, a backdrop of truth and beauty. You have chosen that light, you have chosen to create that backdrop, you have chosen to bring light to the darkness that surrounds us.

I am somebody who is always in search of good writing. Like you I’ve thought an awful lot about where can we find solace and comfort in the midst of indescribable, unfathomable loss. The other day I read a benediction by the Reverend Ann Hallmark who preaches at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Middleburg, Virginia. She was writing words for the Advent season. She spoke of the power of light against darkness. Whatever our differing faiths, whatever our different abiding beliefs, I believe her words offer all of us solace and hope. Here’s what she wrote:

“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 where 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 those words as darkness falls and stars once again shine so brightly, and may we remember the love of those we lost and the light they brought to our lives.

Thank you for allowing me to be part of this.