TWA Flight 800 Memorial Mass

Archives of Rudolph W. Giuliani
St. Patrick's Cathedral
Thursday, July 17, 1997, 12:30 p.m.

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Reverend Harry Pritchett, Cardinal O'Connor, Father John Ferry, Director Louis Freeh of the FBI, Robert Francis of the NTSB, Police Commissioner Howard Safir, Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen, Commissioners Hauer and O'Keefe, and all of the people who are here from the city, state, and federal government to be with you on this very very important day and in this very important period of time. And in particular, to all of you who are family members and loved ones of those who were lost on Flight 800.

Has it been a year? Sometimes I'm sure it feels like just yesterday, and sometimes it feels like an eternity, and still there are times when it feels like it never happened.

In our lifetimes, there are just a handful of moments, occasions that you will always remember where you were and what you were doing when you found out that a tragedy had occurred. And I believe that's true for many many people with Flight 800. I'll always remember where I was when I received the first call on my car telephone. And I will always remember the first people that I saw. And the first families that I saw come to Kennedy Airport. And I remember first realizing that I lost friends also on Flight 800.

I particularly remember meeting the families from Montoursville and realizing that a small town had been so devastated by losing so many of its youngest and its best and its brightest and most wonderful people. For days, we all felt this tragedy together and lived through it together and began each day to realize the scope of it more and more. And it was clear that it affected not only New York but it also affected Montoursville and Baltimore and Los Angeles and France and Italy and Israel and eventually, it really affected all of America and most of the world.

To this day, we don't have an answer about what happened, and that's a source of great frustration, I know. But we do have an answer about what is the most important thing in life. For all the fear and the pain and the hurt, I think for all of that, this has become, or it should become, an experience of love. To see each one of you helping each other the way you did during the days after the tragedy. To see the rescue workers who risked their lives to ease your pain. To see the volunteers who came day-in and day-out to help. To go to Montoursville in August of last year for the memorial service and stand at the cemetery and feel the peace and serenity of that beautiful Pennsylvania town. I believe like any turning point in life, for all of us and for all of you, this can be a devastating event in which things get worse or this can be a turning point of love.

I'd like to paraphrase from what I said in Montoursville:

In New York City, we're so big that we very often think that our strength comes from our skyscrapers and the tremendous amount of money that they produce for us. Or we think our strength comes from our museums and our theaters, the music and the art and the culture they provide. And very often in America, we think that our strength comes from our military or our farms or our industries or even from our natural resources. All of these things provide strength.

But the experience of Flight 800 reminds us all that our true strength, our real strength, derives from something much more basic than all of that. It comes from our families, from our homes, from our churches, our synagogues, our communities. It comes from people relying on each other and helping each other and people being able to count on the support of others.

In the first century, Christianity prevailed over the greatest empire of its day, The Roman Empire, and the greatest culture of its time, Greek civilization, 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 over the enormous forces because outsiders looked at all of these Christians and they observed something. They said, "These people help each other, they pull for each other, they know how to love each other." And the force of that love overcame the fear of armies and navies, and even the fear of death.

I don't know if you realize it, but you've given all of us, by your demonstration of love, a great lesson, greater than any sermon, greater than any eulogy. The only thing that we can do now is cling to the things that have always been the most important and be reminded of them: family, friends, neighbors, love, and God. And as you remind all of us of the eternal truths, cling to them for yourselves. For me personally, I can tell you that until the day I die, I will never forget the experience of Flight 800. I will certainly never forget the loss of good friends, the tragedy, the pain, the grief. But most important, I will never forget the love that you all displayed and continue to display for each other. It really has reminded me of the strength of our lives. All of us in New York and America and all around the world have learned many lessons from you, and the chief one that we have learned is the lesson of love.

In The Song of Solomon, it is written "Many waters cannot quench love." I believe that the waters of the Atlantic have not quenched your love and the light provided to the world by those who died and those who have lived.

By the example of your love, you've given us great health and strength. You've pointed us to a better way to lead our lives and you've taught us real strength. I know the people of New York City are grateful to you. Thank you and God bless you.

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