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Wed April 24, 2013
Collier Remembered by MIT Community, Biden
Vice president Joe Biden joined thousands of police officers, students, family and friends at a memorial service Wednesday for slain MIT police officer Sean Collier.
More than 10,000 people gathered at Briggs Field at MIT, many of them wearing "Collier Strong" badges on their shirts. MIT students, faculty and staff, and law enforcement officers from across the state and across the country gathered to pay their respects.
The Collier family arrived, and the crowd stood as a sign of respect. Bagpipes played as an honor guard of MIT officers carried Collier’s casket into Briggs Field. An American flag hung between two fire truck ladders flew overhead.
MIT Police Chief John DiFava addressed the crowd. He said Collier wanted to be a police officer from the time he was 7 years old. And he said he saw Collier last Thursday night, hours before he died.
"I was leaving the Stata garage and I saw one of the cruisers parked on the ramp next to the wall," he said. "I pulled next to the cruiser rolled the window down and saw it was Sean. I asked him what was going on, and he gave me that famous grin and said 'Just making sure everyone’s behaving sir.'"
Collier’s stepbrother Rob Rogers remembered him as a person with a big heart and two left feet; as a country music fan who loved life and helping others, who was born to be a police officer.
"People have asked me if Sean were here, what would he think?" Rogers said. "Are you kidding me?, He would have loved this! He had sirens, flashing lights, people saluting, bag pipes, taps, the American flag. He would have loved it. He was born to be a police officer, and he lived out his dreams."
Rogers said that if a message can be learned from Sean’s life, it’s this:
"A smile to a stranger, a simple hello, an outreached hand can ultimately change how people treat each other," Rogers said. "Comfort somebody when they have a bad day, offer somebody the time to help somebody out, tell your parents that you love them for no other reason other than you just do."
Vice President Joe Biden spoke with emotion at the service. He said children should not die before their parents. Biden’s one-year-old daughter and wife died in a car crash in 1972.
"I know from experience that there’s not much I’m gonna be able to do to fill that void, that sense of loss, that grief, or answer those nagging questions about why," he said.
Biden saluted the police officers and thanked them for defending the community every day. And then he turned to the topic of terrorism, calling the Tsarnaev brothers, “two twisted cowardly perverted knockoff jihadis here in Boston.”
He said a place with the diversity of MIT – where Muslims, Christians, Jews, men, women, black people, and white people talk about ideas and challenge orthodoxy is the greatest rebuke to acts of terror.
Otto Mehiya, originally from Gautemala, works in MIT’s facilities department. He attended the memorial service.
"I felt he was talking to me, yes," Mehiya said. "This country is made for all of us, and it’s not understandable in any way what some of these people want to do or what they are thinking."
Mehiya said it’s important for the MIT community to stand together at this time.
"We all work here," he said. "It could have been any one of us. It’s it’s scary."
Thousands of MIT students, faculty and staff came to remember Collier. They started filing in hours before the service. They made their way through metal detectors and past bomb sniffing dogs, and armored vehicles.
Eric Huppert is an MIT undergrad. He said he felt it was necessary to be at the memorial.
"We kinda go through our lives here at MIT, I feel safe every day and that feeling of safety wouldn’t be possible without the officers like officer Collier," Huppert said. "And he paid the ultimate sacrifice for my safety and it’s the very least I could do, is to spend a couple of hours out here remembering him for what a great person he was."
After Biden’s remarks, James Taylor performed “Shower the People” with MIT a cappella ensembles.
A state trooper played Taps. And four law enforcement helicopters flew over head, marking the end of the ceremony.
As the thousands of policemen in blue filed off the field, the rest of the audience stood up and broke out into a sustained and appreciative applause.