Good evening ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honor to be here with you tonight as we come together to celebrate the memories of the beautiful children whose light will always surround us and share our love and support for those who are carrying with them such profound loss.

Over my years in public service, I’ve spoken with many families who have lost young children. 

They talk about how nothing can compare to the pain they’re experiencing — And how challenging the grief can be to manage.

How the world keeps moving while they’re still suspended in a state of overwhelming anguish. 

But many of them also tell me about the profound loneliness that can too often accompany the loss of a child. 

They tell me how they feel they have an obligation to stow their grief away — to hide it from public view — lest they infect others with their despair. 

And It never fails to break my heart when I discover that there are families who feel they must walk this excruciating journey all by themselves. 

So I’m going to share with you now what I always tell these families: There is only one job harder than raising a child and that is grieving the loss of a child — and neither can be done alone. That’s why – in times of such inescapable tragedy – a strong and supportive community like ours is so essential. 

We all know it takes a village to raise a child, but what’s not said nearly enough is that it also takes a village to mourn a child. 

So whether you’re a lifelong resident or a recent newcomer I’m here to tell you: you need not walk alone in grief when you call Petersburg home.  

And as I look around this room tonight, I am reminded of the healing power of our community. Because today and every day, we stand shoulder to shoulder with every mother, every father, every grandparent, every sibling, every aunt, and every uncle who carries with them the grief of such an unthinkable, insurmountable loss. 

When our neighbors find themselves drowning in heartache, we are a community who will not shy away from picking up the phone, knocking on the door, and offering whatever we can to bring even the smallest bit of solace to their suffering. 

Because our community truly understands the transformative power of love.

For families in the throes of agony, a supportive community is a lifeline. 

The outstretched hand of our community offers deliverance — because darkness will always compound pain — it is only in the sunlight where we can begin to heal. 

So to those who are carrying this immense weight alone, I want to say: come into the sunlight and let us help you carry it. 

Come into the open arms of your community and take shelter in the warm embrace of restorative compassion.

We are ready to walk with you, to comfort you, to mourn with you — and lord knows to cook for you — because our community understands the pain of loss all too well and we know how much harder it is to bear that kind of pain alone. 

So when you are ready, always know: you are not alone — 

— Because we will always be here waiting with open arms, open ears, and open hearts.