American Freedom Threatened, Resilient

By Sean Gormley

Live free or die.

That simple motto resides on the license plate of my car as it does on that of every resident of New Hampshire, a constant reminder of the sacred principle that our forefathers fought for during the Revolutionary War, our grandfathers fought for during World War II, and which stares us down in the face of Tuesday’s attack of the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

On Tuesday, through no fault of their own, citizens of the United States of America paid the ultimate price for our collective freedom and democracy, dying due to the despicable acts of depraved madmen. Much like JFK’s assassination, and Pearl Harbor a generation before, September 11, 2001 will be remembered as yet another day that will live in infamy, another innocence lost for the American people and a change in the way we live our lives.

Here at Georgetown, often an oasis from the `real’ world surrounding us, students woke up on Tuesday to television images of the World Trade Center towers on fire, only to be shaken by an explosion not three miles away at the Pentagon – likely the most secure office building in the world. Billowing plumes of black smoke visible from Walsh and the Village A rooftop suddenly pushed CNN right into conscious perspective for those without an intimate connection to the World Trade Center.

For me, the Pentagon attack led to hours of worry about my uncle, Peter Murphy, the general counsel for the Marine Corps, who has an office on the fourth floor of the Pentagon, overlooking the helipad. With televisions relaying the news of the attack on the World Trade Center, hell on earth struck the Pentagon as the hijacked 757 hit and threw my uncle and his co-workers across the room, buckling the floor as the air filled with smoke. By an act of God he is still alive, but his recently renovated office now sits in the charred rubble that rescue workers have been combing through in hopes of finding survivors.

For every story like my uncle’s, though, there will be far too many that do not have a happy ending, but instead will end with lives cut short. They are stories of victims of the American belief in freedom, liberty and democracy. Members of our Hilltop community have already been lost and in the days ahead, even more losses are likely to become apparent.

In our own backyard, the visible effects of Tuesday’s attacks were impossible to miss: DPS checkpoints at the entrances to campus, National Guard Humvees stationed along M Street, F-14s crisscrossing the skies in place of lumbering commercial airliners. But it was the less visible effect that was even more somber and eerie: the silence that has penetrated campus, replacing usual laughing, joking and shouting with a surreal atmosphere of sadness, hope and anger.

But it is that hope that we as a community, and as a nation, are left to cling to in the coming days and months to pull us through this tragedy, strengthening both our community bonds and our national resolve. That hope rises from what is witnessed around us – friends helping friends, neighbors helping neighbors, and heroes that have risen from the ashes of decimated buildings: rescue workers that have given their lives and those that continue the seemingly futile search, doctors and nurses answering the emergency call in droves, military brass chipping in as the Pentagon burned around them, and even those citizens doing whatever they can to chip in during a time of need, be it donating blood, enlisting in the armed forces or just flying an American flag as a symbol of solidarity and support.

Those heroes, normal people pushing forth with the indestructible American spirit, are what keep my spirits up in what will be remembered as a dark period in U.S. history. The citizenry of this nation and our own community will shine through at their best in this time of need and we will once again reiterate our place as the world power of freedom and liberty.

Sean Gormley is a senior in the McDonough School of Business and a contributing editor for The Hoya.

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