Remarks by Lisa Monaco, Homeland Security Advisor

Thank you, Frank, for your kind introduction and for your leadership. Thank you to all of you—Mary Kay... family and friends of Pan Am 103... Remembrance Scholars keeping alive the memories of those we lost... current and former friends from across government.

It’s a privilege to be with you once again. Each year I’ve been able to join this memorial service, I’ve been reminded of the courage and strength of this group. Thank you so much for the invitation to be part of your ceremony today.

I bring greetings from President Obama who asked me to reiterate on behalf of his national security team – many of whom are here today – that we stand with you. The presence today of my colleagues (Attorney General Lynch, Director Comey, Administrator Neffenger, and the President’s Chief of Staff) underscores our commitment never to forget your loved ones—and to never stop seeking justice on their behalf.

Today marks the 27th year since that December day. Like most Americans of a certain age, I was in college, and can still recall the scale, the drama, and the horror of that day. Nothing comes close to the pain and loss endured by this group—but in ways large and small, that December day touched us all.

I have felt a connection to this service and to you all over the years. Before I came to the White House, I spent 15 years at the Justice Department, as a prosecutor and working with law enforcement. I had the privilege to call Brian Murtagh one of my own when I had the good fortune to lead the National Security Division and its dedicated prosecutors. And at the FBI, I witnessed Bob Mueller’s singular passion for justice in this case. They —and we—have drawn enormous strength from the determination of your families and the memories of your loved ones.

On this day, in this place, we read their names. We remember them, together.

The grief never goes away—we know that. Wounded hearts never fully heal. We still see them in our mind’s eye: bright students, proud servicemen and –women, successful leaders, and newborn infants. They were sons and daughters. Fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters. They were traveling home, carrying Christmas presents.

Amid your grief, you have carried on. You refused to be victimized. I suspect many of you know the truth of the words —“In the midst of winter, I found there was, in me, an invincible summer.” It cannot have come easy. But, over time, you—the families and friends of those lost on Pan Am Flight 103— in your grace and in coming together each year, discovered that invincible summer.

Out of your sorrow you found purpose, companionship—even love. And on that note, I want to take this chance to congratulate Chris Tedeschi and Sonia Stratis as they prepare for the arrival of baby boy number three. Many of you who lost family on that day gained a new family bound together by shared loss and love. From this service to Thanksgivings and vacations, you have continued to come together, year after year, as a family of families. Truly, as the Psalm says, you have turned mourning into dancing.

You refused to withdraw from the world. Instead, you became catalysts for change, channeling your loss into sparing others the same. You felt an obligation to change the system—and you did. Fighting to improve aviation security. Rewriting the laws to hold rogue regimes responsible for their atrocities. Transforming the way our government supports the families of victims. And, as we grieve lives lost in other senseless tragedies we draw inspiration from the way you’ve been there for other families—from Oklahoma City to the World Trade Center to Boston. Offering a strong hand, a welcoming shoulder, and a simple but powerful message: “We are here in your hour of need. Together, we will carry on.”

When we look at you, our nation sees that even in the depths of winter—even as we face real and evolving threats, from without and within—freedom can outlast fear. That is a legacy worthy of those we remember today.

Thank you for letting me share this day with you. May the memory of your loved ones always bring a smile to your face. And, no matter the season, may you continue
to find love and strength in your “invincible summer.”