"Today ... our very freedom came under attack," said President George W. Bush in his statement to the American people following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But America has always known that freedom is not really free.
There was a cost to gain our freedom. Our nation was born paying the price for freedom in our Revolutionary War, and in the personal sacrifices of immigrants who came here for the promise of liberty.
There has been a cost to maintain our freedom. We grew up fighting many battles to gain and to preserve freedom. This includes our own Civil War to end slavery and win freedom for people of all colors and races. It also includes wars we waged against outside forces, as we did in World War II.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, we fought on two fronts: against the Imperial Japanese, whose motto was, "Victory or death," and against the Nazi Germans who swore "absolute obedience to the Fuhrer."
Ours was a more noble pledge: "One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." And freedom reigned. But we also learned after we withdrew from South Vietnam: freedom lost is seldom regained.
There will also be a cost to remain free. Already, 4,346 people are dead or missing from the attack on the World Trade Center, 189 were killed in the attack on the Pentagon, 44 died in the crashed airplane in Pennsylvania. Dozens of people have been exposed to the deadly anthrax virus, several have become ill, and a few have died.
We must expect that there will be losses among the men and women on the seas, in the air and on the ground in Afghanistan. Our forefathers knew that "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." (John Philpot Curran, "Speech Upon the Right of Election," 1790) Our citizens have been reminded again that we must all stay alert.
Now, we are fighting a new kind of war against the faceless cowards of terrorism. But we are also seeing a revived faith in God and a renewed spirit of patriotism.
During our National Day of Prayer and Mourning, President Bush ended by saying, "In every generation, the world has produced enemies of human freedom. They have attacked America because we are freedom's home and defender. And the commitment of our fathers is now the calling of our time."
We will rise to this new challenge and pay the price for freedom. God bless America.
Amber Hall is an eighth-grade home-school student. She is the daughter of Martin and Faith Hall. Her essay won the central peninsula district's 2001-02 Youth Essay Program sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and its Ladies Auxiliary.
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