Almost all Georgetown students will be able to tell you where they were that sunny September morning 10 years ago. Most of us were still in elementary school, yet undeniably Sept. 11, 2001 was a political awakening for our generation. The subsequent years shaped our conception of not only world politics but also of America’s identity.

For some within the Georgetown community, it was a day of great personal loss. For others, it was a day when we saw our neighbors suffer and felt solidarity with both them and America as a whole. For all, it was a devastating wake-up call.

Acts of terrorism are not a normal occurrence within the United States, whether they are motivated by a perversion of peaceful religious beliefs abroad or by anti-government paramilitary groups at home. As a generation, we have had the privilege of living in a nation that is able to provide common defense for all citizens and that strives to promote their general welfare.

On Sept. 11, 2001 though, America was directly and ruthlessly attacked by a group of extremists seeking to destroy our nation’s commitment to its most important ideals: freedom, democracy and liberty. We learned that America is, in fact, vulnerable.

9/11 shaped our knowledge of America’s place in the world. While it certainly sparked an outpouring of patriotism, it was also the first time many students consciously realized that there are other ideologies, perhaps diametrically opposed to the American belief system. We learned to question the beliefs we grew up with. While for many a sense of respect of America solidified, others asked what could make these extremists hate America so much and whether there was a reasonable rationale behind the attacks.

Regardless of our answers to the issues the event brought forward, we formed strong opinions against extremism and political violence. Our generation is less inclined to militant action, and we advocate fordialogue and diplomacy to solve intercultural and interstate problems. While there is a war of words in American politics today, there is little tolerance and acceptance of actual violence.

The tragedy resulted in a reset of our approach to national and international political relations. At Georgetown, Arabic is a popular foreign language. The School of Foreign Service in Qatar opened in 2005, a clear sign that Georgetown aims to foster cross-cultural dialogue. Rather than becoming an insular people or an isolated generation of Americans as a result of the horrifying attacks, our generation has grown up with a better understanding of the global impact of our decisions.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, we should remember the losses and the pain. We would not be who we are today without them. But we should also continue to look forward.

Almost all Georgetown student will be able to tell you where they were on that warm Sunday evening this May. As President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed nearly 10 years after the attacks, the boogeyman of our youth disappeared. We have finally achieved a measure of closure. It is only fitting that 10 years later, we can reflect on a day of national tragedy with a mix of sorrow and pride in America, and particularly in our generation’s perseverance and commitment to freedom, democracy and peace.

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