It was hard to reconcile the horrific television images and news reports from New York, Washington, D. C., and Pennsylvania with the peacefulness of our lives Tuesday on the Kenai Peninsula.
It just didn't make sense. Havoc in one part of the nation and, for the most part, business as usual in our little corner of the world.
With one notable exception: The terrorist attacks changed our priorities in an instant, no matter what part of the country we happened to be in Tuesday morning. The importance of everything else paled in comparison to the significance of the tragedy unfolding before us.
All of a sudden what mattered most was each other -- not our political differences, not our petty arguments, not our world views, not our collective or individual "stuff," just each other.
There were the unanswerable questions: Why? Who? How? But there were also the compassionate questions: Are loved ones back East safe? Have we heard from friends and family members who are traveling? Any word from those we know in the military?
At this writing, almost 12 hours after the first attack, there are still more questions than there are answers. A lot of speculation. Even more disbelief. Anger. Tears. And, unfortunately, fear.
If chaos can reign on what starts as a normal day, what other horrors might await us? How safe can we really ever be?
The events of Tuesday remind us that our nation's greatest strengths -- our openness and freedom -- make us vulnerable.
Can we have both a secure nation and a nation where individual freedom is still enjoyed and protected? Are we willing to give up some personal freedom for more national security? At what price?
As the nation seeks answers to those kinds of questions, we must also be sure we seek justice and not revenge for what happened Tuesday. Our reaction must be strong, courageous and dignified -- the exact antithesis of the
cowardly acts that have killed and injured untold numbers of innocents. And for what cause?
The perpetrators of such violence against America are likely in for a big surprise. As many observers noted Tuesday, the attacks have changed the nation forever. Notwithstanding the tragedy of the lives lost, it is possible the nation could be changed for the better.
In their cowardice, the terrorists may have given the United States the catalyst it needs to stand united on what matters most.
As President Bush said at the time of the catastrophe: ''Freedom itself was attacked this morning, and I assure you freedom will be defended.''
Let there be no doubt from any corner of the world that, in the end, freedom also will be declared the victor.
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