New York City has a population of seven and half million people, Montoursville has a population of five thousand people. In New York City five thousand people live within the four blocks of where I live; it appears that these two places have very little in common. But on the evening that we are all remembering, when TWA Flight 800 disappeared from the radar screen, America's largest city and an idyllic, small town were linked together in the worst air tragedy in American history.
And I believe they found they had the most important things in common. The loss is incalculable. At first, before I knew of the losses encountered by Montoursville or even of the borough of Montoursville, all through the night I saw family and friends who had come to the Ramada Hotel one after another looking for their loved ones. But we slowly began to realize the scope of this tragedy--people from New York, people from Florida, from California, from France, from Italy, from Columbia and South America, from Israel, from all over the world.
At 2:30 in the morning I realized I lost a friend on Flight 800 who left behind a wife and children and a multi-million dollar business that he built in just five years. And later I found out that I lost another friend and a very dedicated campaign worker. A wonderful woman. As I stayed with the families all through the night, I realized that this was not a single tragedy, this was indeed 230 separate tragedies, 230 lives that ended abruptly. And just as I thought I was beginning to understand the impact of this tragedy, I saw your families from Montoursville coming off the bus into the Ramada Hotel. The first picture I remember is them clutching the photographs of their children. Immediately, my mind raced to my two children--Andrew who's 10 and Caroline who's 6--who were home in bed or maybe on their way to camp when I felt the depth of this tragedy was without a limit, and without an end.
The impact of this has truly been worldwide, but nowhere can it possibly be felt more than here in Montoursville. For the people of New York City, to understand your encounter in some small way, it would be as if in one single time, in one single moment, in one single tragedy, in New York City thirty-five thousand people would need be affected. Every single person, all of us would feel the tragedy. And that's exactly what has happened here in Montoursville.
It has touched all of you, it has reached every single person, it has involved every single one of you. The dimension of your loss, individual and collective, really cannot be understood or described; there is nothing that I can say or anyone else can say that can ease your pain or relieve your grief. But maybe as an outsider I can offer, a little bit of perspective. Although your work has been monumental, the strength, the dignity and the faith you have displayed has been an example to your fellow Americans and fellow human beings. On that terrible day after this tragedy one month ago, as I saw mothers and fathers, friends and neighbors, helping each other, and I watched the leadership provided by Craig Kurtz and so many others of you, and as I watched how the people of Montoursville loved and supported each other, and worried as much about the tragedy that was befalling their neighbor as about themselves, after a very long and difficult night, I was comforted by you, strengthened by you, and so was everyone else, all over the world.
Again, as I saw on TV, as millions of millions of other people did, the religious services held here, the funeral masses, as we saw your homes, your people, and we learned about the wonderful youngsters and the chaperones that were lost. We learned about your families and your histories. You've showed us in tragedy the real strength of America. In New York City, we are so big that we sometimes think that our strength comes from our skyscrapers and the tremendous amount of income they produce, or we think that our strength comes from our museums or our theaters, and the music and the arts and the culture that they provide. And very often in America we think our strength comes from our military, or our farms, or our industry, or even from our natural resources. These things all provide strength, but Montoursville, you reminded us, all of us, even in New York City, that our true strength, that our real foundation derives from something much more basic. It comes from our families, from our homes, from our churches, our synagogues, our communities. It comes from people relying on each other and being able to count on their support. Your work for each other was evident in the very way in which this trip to France was funded--by community carwashes, by community bake sales, by everyone chipping in to provide all of your children, your collective children with this wonderful opportunity.
Montoursville has shared an awful lot in the last few weeks with the rest of the country and the rest of the world. You've shared your grief, it has been on world-wide television, you've shared your pain and your loss. But you've also shared something about this small Pennsylvania town, you've shown the world the heart of America. A heart of compassion and a heart of courage. When Governor Ridge came to Long Island for the memorial service that took place right next to the waters that the plane Flight 800 he spoke eloquently and movingly about the tragedy and Montoursville. And he told the mourners gathered that day that we mourn in silence. We mourn their silence. I promised you that New York City will do all that it can to hear that silence and help to find answers and to provide justice, it's very important. But you also showed us there is something even more important than justice, you've showed all the world that in even of times of grief, too great to bear, too massive to even contemplate, the love of a family, the love of a friend, the love of a neighbor, transcends the greatest of sorrows. And as the days, and the weeks, and the months go by, and your lives move on, as they will, remind each other that it's OK to need help and it's all right to cry, it's necessary to share pain. It's inevitable that you'll remember, that you'll reach out, and that you'll ask for help, and remember that it'll be there if you ask. You've showed all of us that here in Montoursville, you reminded us, all of America, of our inner strength. Our families, our friends, our neighbors, our country, our God, maybe we've all strayed too far from the sources of our strength and we needed your reminder.
From the days of the early Christians, Christianity prevailed over the greatest empire of its day, the Roman Empire, and the greatest culture of its time, the Greek culture, not by force of arms, not by economic power, not even by preaching and teaching, but by the way they all loved each other. Christianity prevailed because the outside looked at these Christians and saw how they helped each other, how they pulled for each other, and many even died for each other, and they said these people know how to love. And the force of their love overcame the fear of armies and navies and the fear of death. You, Montoursville, have given all of us, by your demonstration of love, a great lesson, greater than any sermon, greater than any eulogy, that the only thing that we can do now is cling to the things that have always been the most important--families, friends, neighbors, love and God. And as you remind all of us of these eternal truths, cling to them for yourselves.
For me personally, I can tell you that until the day I die I will never forget Montoursville and the experience of Flight 800. I will never forget the loss and the tragedy, the pain and the grief, and the friends that I lost. But most importantly, I will never forget the love that you all displayed for each other. My experience with you has reminded me of the strength of our lives, for my city and for yours. All of us in New York and America and around the world learned many lessons from you here in Montoursville. The chief one that we learned from you is the lesson of love. In the Song of Solomon it's written "Many waters cannot quench love." Believe me, the waters of the Atlantic have not quenched your love and the light provided for the world by the people of Montoursville, those who died and those who have lived. By the example of your love, the people of Montoursville have not only given us great help and strength, but you've pointed us to a better way to lead our lives, you've taught us real strength, and the people of New York City are grateful to you. Thank you and God bless you.