An update from Caroline C., a junior studying corporate communication and public affairs, concentrating on political communication, with minors in ethics, and law and legal reasoning.
Today was packed as we trekked across Washington D.C. in the rain to the Arlington Cemetery, the Newseum, and the National Mall. What stood out to me the most was the solemn moments we spent paying our respects to those who have given their lives for our freedom. Whether it be observing the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier, pausing for a moment of silence in front of President Kennedy’s gravesite, taking in the tens of thousands of names printed on the Vietnam Memorial, or reading the headlines of the fateful day of September 11, 2001 at the Newseum, I noticed one common theme. Being in our nation’s capitol strikes a cord of patriotism deep within all of us that forces us to look at the big picture of freedom and what that means to each of us.
When observing the front-page headlines dedicated to the terrorist attacks on 9/11, it was clear to me that the world was in utter shock. It was a pivotal moment in history when people realized that life as they knew it would never be the same. Years later, the best headline that stood out to me was “Our Nation Saw Evil”. This headline is drawn from President George Bush’s address to the people of America on the night of the attacks. President Bush centers this address around America’s freedom, claiming that this was the reason we were targeted in these attacks. This rhetoric became a rallying cry for mourning Americans and gave them hope and reassurance that America is a strong nation that will not be scared into chaos. This is such the perfect headline for that horrible day because it reinforces what the American people needed to hear from its leader in order to band together and continue on with their day to day lives.
The most shocking headlines to me were “Apocalypse” and “Bastards!” because they are so far to the extreme. While looking back on the events of 9/11, I can understand why these newspapers made the bold choices that they did with these headlines. America was under attack and there was no way to capture the emotion, the terror, the horror of those events in a single headline. Instead, these papers offered up something so shocking that would resonate with people, that would begin to approach the strong, twisted emotions that they were feeling.
The video that was playing inside the exhibit evoked the strongest emotions from the people around me and also from myself. The way that the small theatre was constructed pushed people together, which I felt was symbolic of the way Americans were forced to band together after the attacks. Listening to accounts from journalists that were covering the tragedy made it so much more real for me, and it reminded me that all of the freedoms that I enjoy in my daily life have not come without a price. It is not only our armed forces that sacrifice their lives for our freedoms, but the victims of these attacks as well as they serve as a beacon of unity across our nation. As victims of the biggest American tragedy to date, we honor them and salute them for their loss of life and their fight for freedom.