Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Make 9/11 a Path to Empowerment

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I was walking back from the magazine drive assembly, animatedly discussing the different prizes at stake for those who sold a certain number of subscriptions (I was privately plotting to win that grand prize). I was wearing that neat, Catholic grammar-school uniform, complete with a clip-on tie and ugly, square black shoes.

It was sunny out, a beautiful cloudless Tuesday morning on Long Island, the kind that beckons you to the beach even after a week or so of school. My teacher was Mrs. Wynne, a 60-something-year-old devout Catholic woman with a passion for world history and a knack for narratives.

That is what I remember from that day before we heard the news, before the illusions of my innocent, 10-year-old outlook came crashing down. That is a picture of my naïve life from the moments immediately before the attacks of Sept. 11 entered my consciousness.

I can still see the face of the principal’s secretary as she ran over to our class and whispered into the ear of Mrs. Wynne. They exchanged looks of disbelief; Mrs. Wynne bit her lip and held back tears as she guided our class back to our homeroom. Immediately, we knew something was wrong.

Eight years later, I can so vividly remember the events of that day. I remember the days and weeks following it as well. To be so young – such a child still – it was hard. My body surged with intense emotions at all times, ones that I didn’t fully understand: anger, anguish, fear, loneliness, confusion, sadness. I found myself crying at times, provoked by the slightest reminder, a reminder of how easily we can lose everything, a reminder of everything we did lose that day. My town alone lost so many people – friends and family, friendly faces and neighbors, teachers and coaches.

Eight years later, and the numbers nine and 11 still stop me in my tracks. All this nostalgia of a nightmare, however, begs the question: At what point do we let go? At what point do we turn around and move on?

It’s a sensitive subject for everyone, of course, but especially for me and everyone back home in New York, in the communities that were rocked by the loss of neighbors who worked in the World Trade Center. Many of us lost family members or very close friends – people whose only crimes were to show up for work that morning. It’s reflected in something as trivial as a Facebook status: Virtually every friend of mine from home has memorialized the victims of 9/11 in a status update, while a significantly smaller number of friends at Georgetown from elsewhere in the world make no mention of it.

It’s almost as if, in a way, we from the New York City area are still holding out hope. We’re still in shock and we haven’t recovered. And we never will – not in the same way, at least. For better or for worse, we have been fundamentally changed by the experience of 9/11.

It seems strange, the term “post-9/11 world,” but it’s one that gets thrown around a lot in political discourse. We, however, are living that phrase – not just New Yorkers, but everyone from Iowans to Iraqis, Gazans to Georgians; together, we constitute this post-9/11 world. How we react, even eight years later, will define it and mold it into whatever we want it to be. In the first few moments, we responded with unity; we stood with our fellow Americans from sea to shining sea and beyond, conveying a beautiful message of the love and solidarity that lies at the heart of this country – e pluribus unum.

Following this outpouring of the American spirit, however, we as a nation quickly turned to violent retaliation, an aggressive act that exploited and warped that glowing American pride. Around the world, countless American soldiers have bravely given their lives for the defense of this country, but this horrific bloodshed is the result of an unwarranted war; more people did not have to die.

y point is not to attack an administration or a war, but to raise this important question: “What kind of post-9/11 world do we want to live in?” We have the opportunity, here and now, to shape it. I want a world without ethnic and religious hostilities and with reconciliation and forgiveness, one in which we tolerate and learn from others and remember never to take for granted what we have at home, one where we can realistically speak of peace and always say, “I love you.”

So where do we go from here? We’re at that moment at which many have let go while others have let the helplessness, despair and guilt consume them. But for the sake of those we’ve lost, of the future and of ourselves, we cannot allow either extreme to control and constrain us. As the character Prior says in the epilogue of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America,”The world only spins forward.”

Our lives must continue; we have been given the gift, the miracle, the privilege to do so, and we cannot let that go to waste. While we do march on, there is no point at which we turn our backs. Those that we lost will forever be a part of who we are; this experience will too. But in this moment, we have a unique opportunity to transform tragedy into development, into progress, into beauty and a better world. Let’s not let it go to waste; let’s not allow those who died to have died in vain or enter into obscurity.

This year, remember those who died on Sept. 11 and in the ensuing violence that has engulfed our world. Pray for them and their families, but keep in mind that our actions, regardless of where we come from, will define the future; keep in mind that we all have that power and must use it to make here better.

Conor Finnegan is a sophomore in the College. He can be reached at On the Road appears every other Monday on

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