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Today's word on journalism

Monday, January 29, 2007

Words as weapons:

"When he had a pen in his hand it was like giving a kid a machine gun."

--Peter Hall, theater director, on "Angry Young Man" playwright John Osborne (1929-1994)

Memories of 9-11 include pride for nation's values

By Matt Lenio

December 12, 2006 | "Good evening. Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts." These were the opening words spoken by President George W. Bush during his address to the nation on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001.

I was an 18-year-old freshman attending Utah State University when disaster struck our great nation. After rubbing my eyes in an attempt to wake up after a long night out, I struggled to believe what my roommate, who hunkered on the edge of his bed, was watching that morning. I sat up to see reporters on the scene of one of the world's most life-altering terrorist attacks.

Four planes were hijacked by 19 Islamic terrorists, who were members of the organization al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden. At 8:45 a.m. in New York City, American Airlines Flight 11, crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center, killing the 81 passengers and 11 crew members on board. Just 18 minutes after the first plane had struck, United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston crashed into the south building of the World Trade Center. This second terrorist act left 56 passengers and nine crew members dead.

Within five minutes of each other, both the north and south towers collapsed an hour after being hit, leaving a cloud of dust and debris. At 9:40 a.m., the Federal Aviation Administration halted operations at United States airports, for the first time in history. Moments later, 58 passengers and six crew members were killed on American Airlines Flight 77, after it crashed into the Pentagon in our nation's capital.

At the time, I was living Mountain View Towers, a boys-only dormitory that only housed out-of-state students. As news of the terrorist attack spread, students who had family or friends in New York City made desperate phone calls home, trying to ensure that their loved ones were OK. Many of us missed class that day, as we huddled around the TV sets in our rooms, waiting to learn what would happen to the country. The fact that I had no family in New York gave me little comfort. My parents live in the suburbs of Chicago, and frequently traveled into downtown. With the World Trade towers burning, the tallest building in the nation was Chicago's own Sears Tower. It seemed a natural target for the terrorists, and it was only miles away from my home.

Although the terrorists did not target another major city, the carnage was not yet finished. That same morning, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Somerset County, Penn., after it was hijacked. In addition to the hundreds of people killed when the plane crashed into their offices, hundreds more jumped to their deaths from the burning towers, or died in the rubble of the Pentagon. By the afternoon of that fateful Tuesday, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani stated that more than 2,100 injuries had been reported, and at least 200 people were left critical condition. Aside from the 246 people killed on the four planes, a total of 2,727 people, consisting of firefighters, police officers, and pedestrians were killed because of September 11th's terrorist attack.

Our great nation immediately pulled together after the attacks made. Gratitude was shown towards uniformed safety workers, approval of President George W. Bush increased, and blood donations poured into agencies like the Red Cross. As our nation's leader, President Bush encouraged everyone to rely on God and to pray.

I think that governor of New York, George Pataki, when deliberating 9/11, nailed it right on the head when he said, "It had nothing to do, as some would have us believe, with what America had done wrong. It had everything to do with what America does right." I believe that New York City was targeted because it represents so much of what America stands for. It is the global center of capitalism, and a place where people of every race, religion and gender co-exist with equal rights.

The terrorists wanted Americans to hide that day, to avoid the streets and the cities until the danger passed. Instead, people gathered together to raise money, donate blood, and in some cases, even help clear away the rubble. By doing that, I think we turned what could have been a victory for evil into a declaration to the world of what our country believes in: freedom and brotherhood.

Fivers years later, our nation is still recovering from the attacks made on September 11, 2001. Airport screenings and homeland security threats may be a permanent part of our lives, but we have held on to the values that our country was founded on.

I believe President Bush said it best the night of Sept. 11th, when he declared to the world, "This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day. Yet, we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world. Thank you. Good night, and God bless America."

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