MIT held a public memorial service Wednesday afternoon for fallen officer Sean Collier on their Briggs Field, where the 26-year-old university police officer was remembered for his commitment to the school community, his love of country music, and his dedication to his job. Vice President Joe Biden closed the ceremony's remarks, offering words of condolence to the family from the perspective of someone who had also lost a child—before offering a scathing indictment of the Tsarnaev brothers' terrorism.
MIT cancelled classes for the service, which brought together members of the MIT community, law enforcement officers, and public officials. A private funeral was held Tuesday. Yesterday, CBS News reported that Collier may have been killed because the Tsarnaev brothers wanted his gun.
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Speaking last, Biden invoked his own experience losing his young daughter in a car accident, and condemned the suspects.
"No child should pre-decease their parents and though every loss is different one thing is certain, I know from experience," Biden said, adding: "That sense of hollowness you feel like you are being sucked into a void you can't control. I remember." He comforted the Collier family, saying that there will come a time when there is moment that makes them recall their lost son: "You'll know it's going to be okay," Biden said, "when the first instinct is you get a smile to your lips before you get a tear to your eyes."
The vice-president then turned his speech to the events of last week in Boston. He called the suspects "perverted," multiple times. In one instance he called them "two cowardly, twisted, perverted, knock-off jihadis." Addressing the MIT community, Biden said, "You represent every community in the world and what do you do. You challenge orthodoxy ads they try to impose it." He added: "You are their worst nightmare."
Before the service started, uniformed law enforcement officers walked onto the field, as the MIT Symphony Orchestra played "America the Beautiful" and other songs. The large crowd was nearly silent. Bagpipers sounded their instruments as Collier's casket was brought out. Later James Taylor would play two songs, "The Water is Wide" and "Shower the People."
On stage, MIT administrators wore badges with the words "Collier Strong." MIT President L. Rafael Reif read commemorations of Collier from students and talked about the life Collier built for himself on campus, learning to swing dance and running up the Green Building in full uniform with the outdoors club. "He had a life at MIT," Reif said. "In just 15 months he built a life with us." Reif's words were followed by those from MIT Police Chief John DiFava, who told of the last words he exchanged with Collier Thursday night. Collier told him: "Just making sure everybody's behaving sir." DiFava recounted how Collier made it his mission to connect with students. "Many of our students come from countries where the police are really not their friends," DiFava explained. "Sean understood this right away. He made it his mission his goal to gain their trust, their confidence, and from the many many emails we have received from the student body, eventually their love."
Later, one of Collier's brothers explained how Collier would have loved the day's ceremony, and Senator Elizabeth Warren implored: "We are strong. We are Collier strong. We are Boston strong."
Warren then introduced Biden.
The service ended with a benediction, "Taps," and a flyover.