One year ago, al Qaeda terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000 people, part of a horrific day that changed the face of America. Even a year later, the memories of that day remain etched in the American conscience, and its impact still reverberates.
Today is a unique opportunity for all of us to reflect on the events of that day and our lives over the past year. We are fortunate to be at Duke University at a time like this. We have the opportunity to learn new concepts, to reflect seriously and thoughtfully and to engage our minds in discussions and forums. We are fortunate to be in a community with experts who experienced the same trauma as we did a year ago. As a result, we can come together and talk about important issues in an informed, thoughtful and respectful atmosphere. Today is a day that academia can be at its best.
But most importantly, we are all here together in a community. In a sense, Sept. 11 was our generation's way of gathering together and celebrating what it means to be an American and to celebrate our freedoms and our values. Over the past year, people have taken a second look at their lives and realized that they are living a good life here. America may not be perfect, but it has more opportunity, more freedom and more wonderful aspects than any other country in the world. It is a great irony that the attacks, which were conceived in hatred for what America stands for and designed to bring low American greatness had exactly the opposite effect. As a result of the attacks, Americans were revitalized in their belief in the things we hold dear: life, liberty and property. America had a chance to show how great it truly was, by coming together in response to these horrific acts of destruction.
Today is also the embodiment of how life has gone on after Sept. 11 and how it will continue to go on, the American spirit will prevail. Thinking back to how things were a year ago, how things unfolded and how we viewed the future in those first terrible moments, is very difficult. At the time, the planes striking the towers seemed so surreal, like a nightmarish fantasy that wasn't actually occurring. As people around the University gathered together around television sets, watching the same gruesome images over and over, when everything was so chaotic, nobody knew what was happening or what would happen the rest of the day or in the future.
But it is greatly reassuring to know that life has gone on and that America remains stronger than ever and that we remain more confident than ever in the righteousness of our beliefs and our purpose. One embodiment of how life has gone on in the face of terror is the fact that we have classes on the 11th. Although it might feel strange to go to class, since it seems like it doesn't matter in the larger picture, in truth, everything that happens matters, everything we do matters, since continuing the American way of life is essential.
Last year some people were crying, some people were so shocked they didn't know what to do, some walked around numb in a sullen stupor. People responded to the Sept. 11 attacks in their own ways, and people dealt with grief differently. But ultimately, we all shared in the same experience, we all watched the towers collapse, and we are all part of the sharing, rebuilding and healing that continues even today. And that togetherness, that community, is itself comforting.
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