Late Sunday night, my husband and I had just gone to bed, and as I usually do, I checked my Blackberry one last time for the night. My twitter feed was exploding with the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed. Quickly, my husband and I were both awake and flipping through news channels on TV.
I became emotional as I watched a crowd form in front of the White House, growing larger and larger by the moment, waving American flags, and then spontaneously breaking into song—The Star Spangled Banner. I was almost immediately taken back to the days right after 9/11, when there was such a feeling of unity and patriotic pride among everyone in the US—the likes of which I had never known. Seeing people come together from all areas, all backgrounds, tourists and residents alike, I felt that sense of pride again.
I also watched as Facebook became the way for people to share and find out about bin Laden’s death. Friends shared articles with the latest details, clips of the president’s speech, and their happiness that bin Laden was gone. Dead. Our Navy Seals immediately became heroes.
Many of my friends also said they struggled and felt uncomfortable celebrating someone’s death, even someone as horrible as bin Laden.
I must say that a tiny part of me felt that, too. It is so foreign to me to think about celebrating anyone’s death, no matter who it is. Death is always a time of sadness, not a reason for celebration.
But this one time, I would make an exception. Mostly, I feel that the families who lost loved ones in the attacks of 9/11 have earned the right to celebrate if they want to. It does not make them bad or immoral to do so. The way they lost their loved ones was so cruel, so senseless, so unimaginably horrible, that whatever brings them peace or closure is appropriate.
And while I might not have been in the streets waving a flag, I do have to say, in my heart, I celebrated. I celebrated that an evil man was put to death, and I especially celebrated that in his last moments, he knew it was the US forces that would take his life. I celebrated the end of an era for al-Qaeda. I know that this will not end their organization, but it certainly will change things for them. I celebrated that our military, who for years now have been fighting neverending battles in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas, could feel some sense of victory after mixed messages they must get all the time through the media and through the political agendas that often chart their course.
I am troubled to see some of the politics playing out now—conspiracy theories already abound, and I heard today that there were questions about whether the killing of bin Laden was legal. There have also been concerns over the initial report that bin Laden was armed when he was killed, and now it has been clarified that he was not.
After the Bush administration sent the message out loud and clear that he was wanted DEAD or ALIVE…I don’t think criticism makes any sense. And I promise you this, as much as I hated Bush’s politics and most of his actions in office, no matter who the president was that brought an end to bin Laden’s life, I would have celebrated just as I have now.
I could care less if bin Laden was armed when he died. If we had simply taken him into custody, he would have almost gained more power, somehow behind the scenes still running things, and gaining more of a following every day through the anger of the leader of al-Qaeda held captive.
This is a man who spewed hatred for most of his life- and most of it directed in the United States’ direction. He was not just the mastermind of 9/11, but of countless other deadly operations the world over. The world is a better place without him in it.
This week as columnists, bloggers, and my own friends have asked if we should be celebrating the death of bin Laden, I wondered if his death had happened quicker—closer to the 9/11 tragedy—would we still be questioning whether or not it was ok to celebrate? With the horrible images of that day in our heads, when we were not so far away from the terror and chaos…would the reaction have been any different?
Maybe. Maybe not. Because we are human. We are compassionate people. We don’t want to be on the same level as these killers who celebrated the death of Americans after 9/11. But we needn’t worry; we are light years away from that kind of soul-less existence.
All of us will always remember the morning of September 11th- where we were when we found out that our nation was under attack. I was in Denver, at a country club, hosting a golf event for my company. I will never, ever forget watching those images on the television, the surreal moments that looked like a horror movie on the screen. I will never forget the pain and fear I felt—like we were at the mercy of an evil force—and there was nothing much anyone could do. I will never forget the long drive back to my home in California, sharing a rental car with two co workers, most of the ride silent as we tried to make sense of what was happening. I could not believe that every airport in the nation was shut down. The magnitude of it all was astounding.
At that time in my career, I traveled so much for business, and I could not get the people on those planes out of my mind. I woke up at night with nightmares of being on one of those planes. I watched every news cast I could, seeing their faces, and crying for their families.
Just a few months before, I had been in New York for another business trip, and we actually had hosted an event at the restaurant on the top floors of the north tower, Windows on the World. I remember vividly standing in the restaurant as the staff put the finishing touches on our reception before our guests arrived. I stood in front of one of the huge windows and looked out over the bustling city that looked so peaceful and small from high above in that tower. And now, all that was gone.
When I think of the terror that the people in both towers went through, and the people on the planes—how they suffered… I don’t have any guilt at all celebrating the death of the monster who brought all that about.
His death was too peaceful.
His life was too long.