Living in the shadow of tragedy

At 9:55 a.m. last Wednesday, I stood and watched Baxter Lawn. As the church bells tolled, people stopped for a moment and gazed up at the flag, honoring the moment of silence in tribute to those that died in the Sept. 11 attacks. When the bells stopped ringing, students and teachers alike went on with their day.

Sept. 11, among other things, is a day of remembrance: first for the victims that died in the terror attacks, and second for the ideals of democratic freedom that they represent. Nationwide, people mourn the lives of those lost and lionize the compassion of those willing to risk their lives to save them.

We salute the bravery of the passengers of Flight 93, as they courageously fought back against the terrorists aboard their flight, ending their own lives so that others might live. We celebrate the firefighters and policemen, and indeed everyday Americans who succored their fellow man in time of need.

Our goals are ever clearer. America is still a bastion of freedom and justice. The American ideals of civil rights and human dignity are stronger than ever before.

It has been commented numerous times that had this tragedy happened anywhere else in the world a mass genocide of Muslims would have ensued. But the American belief in the ideals of republican democracy was so strong that it promoted tolerance instead of hatred. It is the collective strength of the American people, their willingness to continue with their lives which has become representative of their resilience.

By all counts, the entire country ought to have fallen into disarray. The terrorists struck at our political heads, our economic centers, and civil society itself. The sheer loss of human life should have provoked mass hysteria, but instead an enduring America calmly accepted news of the tragedy and moved to heal the wound.

The loss of the World Trade Center itself could have plunged the country into economic disarray. Hundreds of billions of dollars worth of assets were lost in a single fiery instant, a staggering financial blow which could have spelled the end for Wall Street. Yet less than a week later, the stock exchanges reopened, resuming their daily business. The Federal Reserve Board negotiated millions of emergency loans, allowing America to put itself back together.

The attack on our military leaders and the projected assaults on our political leaders spelled an equally dangerous future for our nation. But the Pentagon, guardian of the American state, still stands, with our military poised to defend the American people with every resource necessary. Our government continues to guide American policy at home and abroad. Our country still stands despite the trials of time.

Most importantly though, American citizens still go to work, earn their daily wages and pay their taxes. They retain the belief that the American system of government is still the greatest in the world. It is because of them that this system continues on. Indeed, that is the reason why terrorists fight the United States, to deprive us of our fundamental rights: religion, speech, and self determination. If we lose those rights, whether from external assault or internal destruction, the terrorists win.

Every single person who died in the attacks was, in his or her own special way, expressing the creativity and determination that a democratic society allows and encourages.

Therefore, the greatest and most dignified testimonial we can give them is to do as they did. We must continue to pursue our own happiness and strive to improve our lot in life. In other words, we must continue business as usual.