The events of last week have changed our lives forever.

Those images of the World Trade Center crumbling to rubble, of the Pentagon, just across the river, smoldering, of wounded, sweaty, bleeding, exhausted people running in all directions stirred to movement only by overpowering terror or altruistic self-sacrifice are forever ingrained in our minds. Then there are the images of people not just at Georgetown, but all over the country wearing ribbons, giving blood and money, volunteering, hanging out flags and praying that will stay with us forever. The events of last Tuesday also awoke us, especially we here enjoying the peace and simplicity of academic life at Georgetown, from a gentle slumber of indifference and pettiness. Suddenly we realized that we are not as safe as we thought. Suddenly we realized that all the things we worried about the night before meant practically nothing. Suddenly we realized that decisions such as whether or not we should meet our friends at The Tombs are not as earth-shattering as they seemed at the time. This is by no means an indictment of ordinary ways of thinking and acting. Rather, it is a belated realization that we are truly blessed and extremely fortunate to be here and have such things to occupy our minds.

The attacks on New York and Washington have also galvanized the political class in this country. The politicians and government officials that inhabit this city were touched by the same sense of security and invincibility that we all enjoyed. Think back to just a day or two before the attacks and recall the most pressing issues that were debated. Issues like the Social Security surplus, prescription drug coverage for seniors, what is to be done now that the surplus is shrinking, should government increase spending by four percent or something more, all now seem like utterly inane issues hardly worth the attention of Congress or the White House. Now the whole government and people of the United States have come together united in a single purpose. What is paramount now is the defense of the country and the quick and decisive end to this conflict.

The struggle that we were thrown into last Tuesday came to us. We did not want it, but it is something to which we must devote all of our energy. Like so many times in our history, this country is called to put aside differences of party, of ideology, of economy, of industry and work together for the common defense. We Republicans, Democrats and Independents, liberals and conservatives, all must and have put our differences aside. What happened Tuesday was not an act by a group which has a specific policy goal. Rather, they seek simply the destruction of the United States and the end of our way of life. We can not talk with them, let alone negotiate. What we are faced with are people would want to live in the 14th century and who will not be happy until we are living there as well. They strike us because we represent all they hate: freedom, democracy, controlled free enterprise, ingenuity, opportunity for all and equal justice under law. In short, they hate us because we represent hope for millions all over the globe that they too may one day be liberated from the suffocation of living under tyranny and oppression. They made their declaration and in doing so, have killed over 5,000 Americans – more killed than on any one day since the Civil War.

The America of Nov. 2000 is gone. With it went an America that seemed obsessed with party and individual interest, an America that produced the closest and most contested election in its history, an America where bitterness and rancor had become the norm of political discourse, an America that seemed to put the interests of faction ahead of the good of the whole. That America is gone. In its place has arisen an America that has rallied universally behind the president and Congress, the government of, by and for the people. An America that is more willing than at any time in the last 50 years to stand up and give our all for the defense of our flag and all that it stands for. All of us now personally understand the fragility of liberty and the danger of those who would seek to destroy it. What the collapse of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon showed was that freedom has and always will have enemies. But it also has shown that the people of the United States will always unite to fight for our beloved liberty. The time has come to do what we can to help protect our country from the hands of those evil people who would destroy it. The Republic demands nothing less. Civilization and liberty demand no less. It is time for us as Americans to stand up and say that liberty will not be extinguished, that all the power and might of the freest nation on earth will be mustered for its defense.

Last Tuesday showed in the starkest way the price of living in a free nation. But the people of this country will not shrink from the challenge. Time after time throughout our history the enemies of freedom have attacked us with the expectation that we would roll over and die. Those people had to learn the hard way the error of that thinking, and we will have to teach that lesson again. Soon after the United States entered World War II after a similar sneak attack, Winston Churchill in addressing Congress asked, “What kind of a people do they think we are? Is it possible that they do not realize that we shall never cease to persevere against them until they have been taught a lesson which they and the world will never forget?” The American people know that liberty is precious and will yet again come to its defense. We are all united behind these principles; it is up to us. Will we answer the call? The answer will and must be an emphatic “Yes!” Whatever is required of us, we as Americans cannot hold anything back. We have built economic and military strength such as the world has never seen, and the time will soon come for us to use it – for if we don’t, our nation, our way of life, the principles for which we stand, lay in mortal jeopardy. We don’t fall back to violence seeking vengeance or in rage but rather out of self-preservation against an enemy that has committed itself to our annihilation and has left no other choice but resort to arms.

We have put our differences aside. We have come together as only Americans can to work for victory over those who would destroy us and civilization. It will be long, and it will be hard, but let no American doubt in our inevitable victory. Those who struck us on September 11 have awakened a giant whose determination has twice ended World Wars with victories for freedom. And when this conflict ends and victory is won once again, we will return to arguing over budgets and tax policy, over protecting the environment and providing for the poor. And when we are again faced with the dilemma of whether or not to go to The Tombs we can step back and realize how blessed we are to live in a country in which such things are the focus of our attention. Let us now work together so that those days may return. And let every American pray that their return comes quickly.

Andrew Maher is a senior in the College and president of the College Republicans. Jake Klonoski is a senior in the School of Foreign Service and president of the College Democrats.

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