In an emotional speech declaring the U.S. would not be cowed by terrorism, Vice President Joe Biden honored slain Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer, Sean Collier, calling him a “remarkable” human being whose life was cut too short in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon attacks.
Biden joined Collier’s family and thousands of students, faculty, and law enforcement officials at the university’s campus on Wednesday to pay their respects to the 26-year-old. Authorities say Collier was ambushed and shot dead on duty last Thursday by Boston Marathon bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
“We have suffered,” said Biden. “We’re grieving, but we are not bending. We will not yield to fear. We will not hunker down. We will not be intimidated.”
Biden, who lost his first wife and baby daughter in a car crash more than four decades ago, recounted his personal experience with grief.
“No child should pre-decease their parents,” he told the Collier Family. “Though every loss is different, one thing is central. I know from experience, that sense of dread reliving the moment of the last nine days, almost hourly. The moment you learn the fate of your child, [there’s a] sense of hollowness and being sucked into a void you can’t control.” Biden told family members that eventually a memory of Collier will bring a smile before it brings tears to their eyes.
Collier’s private funeral was held on Tuesday at St. Patrick’s Church in Stoneham, Mass.
During the memorial service, Biden also took the opportunity to skewer the Tsarnaev brothers, calling them “two twisted, perverted, cowardly, knock-off jihadis.”
He added that while the purpose of terrorism is to instill fear, “You saw none of it here in Boston. Boston, you sent a powerful message to the world.” He also said “On every frontier, terrorism as a weapon is losing.”
Collier, originally from Wilmington, Mass., was single and had worked for the Somerville Police’s IT department before joining the MIT police in January 2012. He majored in criminal justice at Salem State University and graduated in 2009.
During his time at MIT, Collier was involved in the school’s Outing Club, where he participated with students in outdoor activities, like skiing and hiking. “In a very short period of time, it was remarkable how engaged he was with students, particularly graduate students,” said MIT Police Chief John DiFava in a statement following Collier’s death. He added the young officer was “extremely well liked by his colleagues and the MIT community.”
Biden echoed that sentiment, saying the students said “they loved him because they knew he loved them,” calling Collier a “remarkable” brother and son.
Collier’s siblings made an appearance on the “Today” show on Tuesday. His sister, Nicole, described her brother’s death as a “nightmare come true,” adding, “I think everybody is just going through the motions right now and pulling together for Sean because that’s what he would want us to do.”
His brother Andrew said Collier had a sense of responsibility and concern for others since he was little, recalling how he’d take insects out of the house and safely place them back outside. He also remembered his brother asking his mother to intervene when he saw a woman crying at a restaurant.
It showed right from “the very start, Sean just cared for other people, and it’s almost something I took for granted and didn’t’ realize, but now through his death, I realized how good of a person he was, and I wish I could have told him that while he was still here,” said Andrew.
At 10:20 p.m. last Thursday, there were reports of gunshots on the university’s campus in the area of Vassar and Main Streets. Authorities said Collier was found in his police car and had suffered multiple gunshot wounds. He was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital and was pronounced dead shortly after 10:30 p.m.
Later, during a shootout with police, older brother, Tamerlan, 26, was killed. Dzhokhar, 19, was charged in a hospital Monday with the use of a weapon of mass destruction. His condition was upgraded to “fair” on Tuesday.
Correction, April 25, 9:46 a.m.: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that “Authorities said the Tsarnaev brothers stole the officer’s cruiser after shooting him.” The Tsarnaev brothers are not accused of stealing the officer’s cruiser after shooting him.