[I received a number of requests for my remarks at the conclusion of the City of Alexandria's annual civic commemoration of the Days of Remembrance. They are appended below. Many thanks to Charlene Schiff, Allan Labowitz, Jack Berson and David Sitrin who served on the city's planning committee. Among the speakers referenced were Germany's Ambassador to the United States, a student from Bishop Ireton High School and the Dean of Virginia Theological Seminary.]
Days of Remembrance. Days of Remembrance. That's what we call this week; it is what we have named this ceremony, Days of Remembrance.
Perhaps it is foolish to ask at the end of this ceremony, at the end of twenty-one years of these ceremonies, but I ask you nonetheless: what are we supposed to remember? Are we to rekindle our sense of loss by calling to mind the children never born, the books never written, the songs never sung? Are we to wax nostalgic for the communities in Europe filled with religious Jews and their segregated lives? Are we to fan the flame of the ember of our anger at perpetrators dead or disappeared to discomfit them beyond the grave or in their secret lives?
There is a time and place for all those rememberings. But it seems to me that time is not today, that place is not here at Market Square.
Instead, we are to remember the assurances we have made to ourselves. I would have been different. I would have known sooner. I would have acted sooner. I would have resisted harder. I would have protected family and stranger alike. We would if we could reach back across the chasm of generations, and we would have done better.
A Christian minister. A Roman Catholic student. A representative of the German people. Americans from every corner of God's vineyard, and among them the local Jewish minions. Look around you – we are all reaching back and we are all trying, trying to do better. That's what we are here to remember. We are here to remember how many partners we have in turning darkness to light, tragedy to triumph, unspeakable sorrow into irresistible hope.
May the One who blessed us with the ability to remember our past cause us to remember to open our eyes to the promise of tomorrow.