A time for celebration?

Friday, May 6, 2011

For the first 20 years of my life, I always heard, "I'll always remember where I was when (fill in the blank)."

For my parents' generation, it was Kennedy's assassination.

For their parents, it was Pearl Harbor.

On September 11, 2001, I got my answer as to what my generation's version of that would be.

I was working as a human resources intern at Pace Dairy Foods in Crawfordsville when one of the day shift supervisors came and pounded on our window, saying, "They flew a plane into the World Trade Center and another into the Pentagon."

For the remainder of the day, we all watched as the story developed. Another plane. Lots of questions as to who and why. A plane crashes in southern Pennsylvania. The towers fall.

To tell you the truth, I don't remember a whole lot of the details. I remember a lot of numbness and fear. That's what the ensuing days were like.

When it was announced Sunday night that Osama bin Laden had been killed it brought some degree of closure to all of us who remember that day, even those of us who watched from afar, unsure what to think and do.

I heard a news anchor say this would be another event where we'd always remember where we were. I'm not certain about that, but I definitely knew it felt like a turning point.

I've been especially interested in the different reactions I've seen around the country. There were the fans at the Mets-Phillies game who erupted into chants of "U! S! A!" There were the students on college campuses across the country who took to the streets. We saw the same thing outside the Whitehouse.

I'm intrigued by the reactions of those who lost family members in the 2001 attacks. They've run the gamut from vengeance to sadness to the loss of more life. I suppose there are a million other thoughts and feelings they can't fully understand as they think back over the last 10 years.

What's made me uncomfortable, though, has been the mood of celebration. I'm not sure how I feel about this.

On the one hand, I get it. We've been fighting the "Global War on Terror" for nearly a decade, and we have finally accomplished one of its main objectives. Osama bin Laden -- evil of evils, public enemy No. 1 -- is out of the picture. Given that this isn't a traditional war, it doesn't have traditional objectives, so, even symbolically, taking down bin Laden is huge.

On the flip side, I don't feel entirely OK with celebrating the death of another human being, even when the human being in question was probably the worst person on the face of the earth. The loss of life -- all life -- is something to be taken very seriously. Dancing in the streets at the news of one man's death is a bit morbid to me.

Ultimately I can't judge what someone else's reaction to this is. I don't know how everyone experienced the events of 2001, so I can't understand how they react to this news -- especially if they lost someone that day.

I can only say I'm glad the threat of bin Laden is gone -- dead or alive.