WAR. The word sounds strange, almost foreign. Until now, I had discussed it only in the past tense, usually in a history class of some sort. Suddenly, it becomes a word very much of the present. For most college students, myself included, it is a word that is hitting home fairly hard.
College, I have found, is a strange place, a strange existence. As students, we spend our time preparing to enter the "real world," that surreal place somewhere out there, shielded from us by a cloud of make-believe and fairy tales. We are at the age when we are considered adults, but do not quite feel like grown-ups. As the saying goes, old enough to know better; young enough not to care.
On the night of Jan. 16, the insulation surrounding our campus was shattered. We were hurled, suddenly and violently, out of our peaceful limbo and into a world where war is a very real entity. Instantly we were transformed from teen-agers casually holding onto innocence to adults clutching the arms of our chairs in terror as the television reporter told us in vivid terms of the bombs we were dropping half a world away.
In a night, I felt myself forced to grow up.
The generation raised on GI Joe dolls and Rambo movies suddenly found itself in camouflage, holding real guns with real ammunition in the clips, and taking the lives of very real human beings. For the first time in my life, something on the news made tears stream down my cheeks.
The tentative, cautious steps I had been taking toward becoming a grown-up were replaced by uncontrollable running, and I found myself unable to turn back as the gate guarding my childhood slammed shut behind me, leaving me in a strange land where bullets and bombs exist in more than just theory.
An American flag hangs in my dorm window, and a yellow ribbon dangles from my book bag. I stand on a street corner holding a banner in support of our troops, ever mindful that those soldiers I see on television are the same girls I played Barbies with, the same boys who pulled my hair in kindergarten and made me cry.
Here they are, in my new world, making me weep again. This time it is for them, not because of them, that the tears fall.
And while I support the troops in their efforts and the government in its mission, I feel some resentment that I will be forced to grow up so quickly.
The television and its anchorman are snapped off the screen with a flick of my wrist, as I try for just a moment to retreat to my old world. I want one more night to bury my face in the soft plush of a stuffed bear as I fall asleep, believing in fairy tales.
I want one more moment of innocence.
Kimberly E. Hitselberger is a junior at Loyola College and editor in chief of Loyola's student newspaper, the Greyhound.