Freshmen used to stick out at Georgetown when they looked skyward upon hearing the drone of commercial aircraft. After a year on the Hilltop, students stop noticing the noise. Since Sept. 11, the airspace that those once-familiar planes filled, arriving and departing from Reagan National Airport, has been replaced by a foreboding silence interspersed with the fierce sound of helicopters and F-16 jets.

Politicians, professors and parents alike have used the term “normalcy” to convey the necessity of getting back to “business as usual.” We’ve resumed our routines – that is certain. But are things normal? We may be able to go about our daily tasks, but what we have reclaimed is only a semblance of our former state.

One of the hardest things about growing up is accepting change. We try to cling to intangibles: memories, scents, images that make us feel comforted and comfortable. We look back on our childhood with longing and nostalgia. One of the most difficult truths of life is that things never stay the same. In fact, change is the only constant, leading to the conclusion that a concrete normal state does not exist.

The attacks in N.Y. and D.C. make us realize that there are no absolutes. Our community brims with ambition, but our energies are largely focused upon the future. The cornerstones of our busy schedules seem as steadfast as our determination to follow our schedules. We know where we’re going next week, next month. We look forward and cover our backs, doing what is necessary to survive and succeed.

Within a moment, however, that state of reality changed. Class? Canceled. Elections? Postponed. Plans? Unsure. When the planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, we were brought back to a common place: the present. And reminded, like a slap in the face, that all that matters is now. The future is not promised.

The Monday night before the attack, Disorienting seniors filled Dahlgren Square eager to have a good time at Happy Hour with the Jesuits. Tuesday night, students clung to one another outside the chapel in their shared suffering.

Strong, ambitious, determined – all words to describe the Georgetown student. But these words shatter in the face of calamity too large to wrap one’s mind around. No level of intellect can fully comprehend or absorb the momentous loss our nation has suffered.

No longer can people say that our generation has no common cause that brings us together. The past few weeks, we have reinforced our commitment not only to our country, but also to our community and to one another. Strides of support and solidarity have been evident throughout Georgetown’s campus with flags, candles, interfaith services, blood drives and speeches.

Three weeks after the attack, the world around us may resemble the world before the attacks, but deep down we know we will never be the same. As we seek normalcy, we cannot go back and restore reality as it was before. We may have resumed class and continued with our thoughts for the future, but we know now that only the present really matters.

We all remember where we were when we heard the announcement: A plane flew into the World Trade Center. Then another. Then into the Pentagon. All of our other concerns stopped, and the future became irrelevant. We were brought back to ground zero.

We saw military vehicles on Wisconsin Avenue and M Street and tightened security on campus. Step by step, these physical signs of the tragedy on campus have faded away, but we will forever be changed. The freshmen won’t be the only ones at Georgetown looking up when the planes at National resume “business as usual.”

Courtney King is a senior in the College.

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