I’d like to talk about doors for just a minute. When I was little, my boxer dog’s bark meant that Dad was coming through the back door. He was finally home, and the fun could begin. When I became a married man, walking through the kitchen door was the happiest moment in my day. Everything that had been occupying my concerns was suddenly unimportant. When my boys were growing up, my passage through the back door meant I’d soon be tackled, rolled to the floor, and engaged in a tickling contest. Now the boys have grown, married and have children of their own. When Christmas vacation approaches, they make their way home. No matter the busyness of the moment or the lateness of the hour, Ann and my ears are perked. When the door opens, celebration begins.
Today, we mourn because of doors that no longer open, open to fathers and mothers fresh from work; open to sons and daughters home for dinner; open to husbands and wives waiting an evening’s embrace. Because crazed fanatics broke down the fragile doors of their Boston-based aircraft, the doors of so many, many lives are now empty and shadowed. It is hard for our minds to contemplate a human darkness so vile that it celebrates murder and destruction of innocent lives.
But we can celebrate the bright memories of the fallen. Each person, whether taken in unknowing sacrifice or resigned to death after heroic struggle, stands in our mind’s eye in the brilliant light of love and faith and patriotism. ‘Sweet land of liberty, long may thy land be bright, with freedom’s holy light.’ They are the holy illumination of our free land. You, their loved ones, have by now begun to open new doors in your lives. New doors, new passages are ordained of Providence. Those of the Jewish tradition acknowledge divine guidance in their doorways by affixing a Mezuzah to the door post. It is my hope that your new doorways receive the blessing of heaven as well.
But I know that the doorways of your past are also open. The doors of your hearts, open to the lost loved ones, will never be closed. They are open to memory and open to the hope that someday, you will greet them again. America‘s heart also will always be open, open to the memory of her lost heroes, proved in liberating strife, and open to the sentient sorrow of still grieving husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. They and you join the hallowed halls of heroes to whom we owe so very much.
It’s been my honor these four years to commemorate this debt, for which I thank you.