9/11: Defining Patriotism: One Year Later

The flags are up again. A year after September 11, the patriotic symbols of our country are again adorning the cars and homes of a nation still in mourning. On the streets of Foggy Bottom and GW, the mood is reflective – patriotism is a malleable concept, each person adapts their own.

“You don’t see as many flags and things anymore,” said freshman Robert Baum, taking a break from his Chinese homework in Kogan Plaza. “It was all a bit overdone. It is important to pay tribute to those that died, but we shouldn’t make it a national holiday.”

Baum is studying international affairs at GW, he said he remembers being in a high school math class when the news of the attacks came and the class watching the events unfold on television.

Across the street on the Quad, Tyrone Smith is raking leaves and debris from around a bed of rose bushes. Moving out of the hot afternoon sun, he stood in the shade and gazed at the American flag hoisted atop a pole on the steps of Lisner Hall.

“I am unhappy that it had to take an event like that day to pull the country together,” Smith said. “It was a long time coming, and it is too bad it had to happen like that.”

Smith was on his way to work in the city when he heard that the first plane hit the World Trade Center. He ran to a television in time to see the second plane hit.

“It was horrible, but it did unite us as a nation and as a country,” he said, watching students file in and out of the University’s halls. “My mother’s friend was killed in the Pentagon that day. I feel blessed to be alive and to be an American. Washington is such a diverse place and it is foreigners and diversity that helps bring us together.”

Foreign students are one reason many come to GW, said junior Nimo Hirad, who is from Somalia. She said GW’s diverse student body brings a diverse set of views to the campus.

“At first people came together with flags in their cars and patriotism, but you don’t see that kind of stuff now,” Hirad said. “I’ve been around the world and there is so much work to be done, that day really opened America’s eyes. Americans seem more aware now of what is going on in the world.”

Countless students have passed by Mohamed Hassan when leaving Funger Hall. They have paid him money and eaten his food, but he said few people know his name.

“I have come from Egypt 10 months ago,” he said, sitting on a cooler in his all-beef half-smoke hot dog stand on the corner of 21 and G streets. “The (American) flag is a symbol of freedom. Even at home people know that America is power and freedom. America is a good land for a good future.”

Hassan has seen thousands of people line up at the American embassy in Egypt waiting for visas to travel here. He considers himself on of the lucky few to have made it.

“I was not frightened to come after (September 11),” he said. “People were angry and sad when it happened at home and people are the same way here. But here, everyone respects the country.”

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