Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to be here today, in the city that Gerardo Hernandez was proud to call home. And I am honored to stand among so many of the friends, colleagues, and family members who knew him best and who loved him most.
To Officer Hernandez’s wife, Ana; to their children, Louis and Stephanie; to his mother, Maria [Esperanza Acevedo]; to his extended family; and to his fellow Transportation Safety Officers – particularly Master Behavior Detection Officer [Tony] Grigsby and Master Security Training Instructor [James] Speer – thank you for allowing me to share in this moment. To the heroic law enforcement officers, paramedics, bystanders, and doctors who responded to the senseless act of violence that took Officer Hernandez’s life – thank you for your bravery, and your dedication. Although we gather in a moment of sorrow – in the wake of a horrific crime – your actions on that terrible day remind us that courage and compassion will always be stronger than violence and hate.
No one understood this better than Gerardo Hernandez – a passionate public servant who stood on the front lines of our struggle to prevent terrorism. But what made Gerardo Hernandez a hero was not only how he died – in the line of duty, becoming the first member of the Transportation Security Administration to lose his life in service of his country. This profound sacrifice – what Abraham Lincoln once called the “last full measure of devotion” – marked him as a man of bravery and valor. But what truly made Officer Hernandez a hero was how he lived: with kindness, with consideration – and with love – for all who were fortunate to know him.
Every single day, Officer Hernandez took pride in the role he played to keep the American people safe. Over the years, the contributions that he and others have made – and the tireless work of TSA employees across the country – have too often been unappreciated, overlooked or even discounted. Yet the importance of their efforts – in preventing acts of terror and deterring those who would threaten our nation – is difficult to overstate.
That’s why I want to take this moment to say “thank you” to our Transportation Security Officers for everything that they do. To wish Officers Grigsby and Speer a full and speedy recovery from their injuries. And to promise all of you that my colleagues and I will stand with this community not only in paying tribute to one of the best among us – but working to prevent tragedies like this from happening again.
I also want to make a solemn pledge: that we will not rest until justice has been done. And we will do everything in our power to ensure that those responsible for this senseless act can and will be held accountable – to the fullest extent of the law.
Like many of you, I cannot help but reflect that the pain we feel at Officer Hernandez’s untimely passing is all the more acute because this was supposed to be a time of celebration – when friends and family would have come together to celebrate his 40th birthday. Instead, we gather to take this brave young man to his rest.
And although today our hearts are broken – and there are no words that can erase the pain that we feel – my hope is that we can take comfort in the fact that Officer Hernandez will live on in the cherished memories of the friends, the coworkers, and the airline passengers whose lives he touched – and especially the loved ones he leaves behind. His work will go on every day in the persistent efforts of all who had the privilege of serving alongside him. And his example, and many contributions, will never be forgotten. His legacy will enrich the community, and the country, that he loved. And his story will inspire generations of public servants to follow in his footsteps, helping to make the nation that mourns him – and the world he left too soon – not only safer, but stronger.
This great nation owes Gerardo Hernandez a debt of gratitude that it can never, will never, fully repay. So we must lift up, remember, and emulate his life of service – and of sacrifice. Let this be the way in which we say "thank you" to this decent, loving, good man. Let this be our challenge, and our solemn pledge – to one another, and to the memory of a man who, in his too-short life, touched many, accomplished much, and showed us the way.
May he rest in peace.