On Oct. 5, I took the Delta Shuttle from Reagan National Airport to La Guardia Airport to see my brother in New York City. Putting all the anxieties of flying in this new world aside, something powerful and equally moving happened on the flight’s approach to La Guardia.
A woman sitting in the window seat behind me looked out her window and sadly said, “Oh my God.” My immediate reaction was to quickly look around the cabin to see what, if anything, had happened. The somber, quiet passengers on the flight became even quieter when we realized precisely what we were all about to experience – an unobstructed, bird’s eye view of the former World Trade Center site, now known as “ground zero.”
I heard from those reporting and commenting on television news broadcasts that nothing can prepare someone for such apocalyptic devastation. The mere sight of Lower Manhattan, where 6,000 people lived their final moments in a hellish blaze of fire and ash, was utterly silencing. My heart began beating erratically, and I felt ill. My mind, stuck in a moment of powerlessness, failed to comprehend the mass grave I saw with my own eyes. Where once the glory of America stood firm, voices lost in the rubble seemed to cry out to everyone on the plane.
There was not much chatter on my flight to New York. But relentless brooding reigned over the remainder of our flight after we saw the destruction. I thought to myself that life is a precious, fragile gift. Life, when taken unjustly and without warning, cries out for action.
The retaliatory actions taken by President George W. Bush may result in more unthinkable acts of terror, but as British Prime Minister Tony Blair rightly and boldly said, “Whatever the dangers of the action we take, the dangers of inaction are far, far greater.”
To those protesting against military strikes, remember that no reasonable citizen of the world thirsts for war. War is a ghastly and tragic enterprise resulting in loss of life on both sides. However, this nation must take steps to exact justice and defend itself from violence. We must understand that whether violent action is taken on our part, al Qaeda will keep coming after America until we abandon our freedom and democracy, which will never be an option. The only thing that will be rescinded is terrorism and its unjust, sinister grasp on the civilized world.
Words from President John F. Kennedy still ring true today in that only a few generations in history have been given the awesome task of defending freedom in its hour of maximum need, a responsibility with the fate of the world at stake.
-The writer, a senior majoring in business economics and public policy, is a Hatchet staff writer.