Courage emerges among students

College students from across the nation are interning in Washington, D.C. on the frontlines of terror.

The interns who work on Capitol Hill do so at an extremely high risk, because it is the responsibility of most interns to open the bulk of mail that enters a House or Senate office. Because of this daily responsibility, four of my friends had to be tested for anthrax exposure.

One friend interns on the same floor of the Hart building where Sen. Tom Daschle’s office is located. After the first news last Monday of the anthrax letter in Daschle’s office, my friend waited and wondered why his senator’s office remained open while Daschle’s office was quarantined.

Staff from the Senate offices are in contact throughout the day on a regular basis, talking and passing on letters and papers between the two offices.

So my friend waited, wondered and worried — as did many of his fellow interns who work in that office or neighboring offices.

And after the House closed for business last Wednesday and all House interns and staff — including three of my friends — were sent home, my friend was left to wonder about his own fate. My friend questioned the motives of Daschle: Why was he keeping the Senate offices open, trying to continue business as usual, when things were far from normal, and productivity was close to nothing?

Wednesday afternoon, two days after the contaminated letter was found, my friend in the Senate was told that he could informally leave, not officially, since the Senate was still supposed to be conducting business as usual.

Then he was told that he needed to be tested for anthrax exposure. As of Friday, my friend continues to wait for the results. Meanwhile, as a precaution, he is taking Cipro, the antibiotic used to treat those with possible anthrax exposure.

My other three friends who intern at the House have also been tested for anthrax exposure. They too are waiting for the results.

However, this new terrorist threat of anthrax not only puts political interns on the Hill at extreme risk, but media interns as well.

I have a friend who interns at CNN with “”Larry King Live.”” One of her first tasks of the day is to open, read and respond to all mail that is addressed to King. She could very well have opened an anthrax-contaminated letter if one was sent to King.

As a result, a task that was once routine is now something she not only tries putting off, but something she now fears. She has also been tested for anthrax exposure and is waiting for the results. In the interim, she is taking Cipro.

All of the college students who made the decision to intern in Washington never signed up for being terrorized with the threat of anthrax, but like the rest of the nation, we had no choice and no warning.

We have been exposed to danger and threat of death on the largest scale for the first time in our lives, but our legs did not buckle. We did not cave in to the panic and fear we all felt at some particular time.

Many of our parents’ generation accuse our generation of being too apathetic, lazy and having no respect for authority.

Well, I have just one thing to say to our critics: Look at us now. Look at the thousands of interns who continue to go about their lives in a city where uncertainty and fear are our constant companions.

We are not backing down in the face of the gravest terror of our lives, and I believe that it is an act of bravery just by staying in D.C., on the frontlines of terror.

If our critics took the time to talk to us, they would find that in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, many of our families pleaded with us to come home. And now with this newest terrorist threat of anthrax, every one of my intern friends has had to fend off our families’ orders to come home to safety.

But not one of us that I know of is leaving. The terrorists’ acts and the ensuing tragedy and panic have brought our college generation together into an awesome, cohesive and spirited unit. I know I am speaking for many interns here in D.C. when I say that no act of terror will scare us away.

Hell no, we won’t go!

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