Capturing Osama

On 9/11/2001 I cried big, fat, tears of anguish. I was confused and angry. I’d moved from New York City to upstate New York years before and was a freshman in college when it happened. I recall reminiscing school field trips to the World Trade Center, which we just called the “Twin Towers.” We would ride the elevator to the top and I would be nervous to get close to the window. Finally, mustering the courage, I would peer over the safety bar and peek down from the dizzying heights. But on 9/11, I cried. I was still a New Yorker. The WTC was the sign, after exiting the Lincoln Tunnel and coming around the bend; that I was home. Now it was gone and I was angry. I wanted what “they” did to us to be done to them.

I was wrong. I’m usually analytical in my approach to everything and emotion, mixed with fond memories, got the best of me. What settled in next was skepticism.
Like many others after 9/11, I was in search of answers and meaning. I moved back to NYC a little over a year later. My very first trip back there after the tragedy began with tears as I took in the beams of light that replaced the towers.

I started a new college and there I joined an organization that looked for answers and were aggressive in spreading the word about 9/11 conspiracy theories. I was in the movement! I learned who “they” were and how essentially a whole group of people had been labeled and endured persecution as a result of the actions of a few. I watched how a botched presidential election and a low approval rating were overlooked due to the loss of human life. Mission accomplished. Weapons of Mass Destruction. It was two semesters of meetings, protests, chants and marches.

Then I stopped.

We lost the battle, the war began and I grew up. I could conspiracy theorize all I wanted but what now? I had things to do. Reality is a hell of a wake up call. I still had my semi-radical political ideas. I shook my head at the truths that had finally come out, truths that we had already known, and how late others were in their revelations. I watched new developments like everybody else. But I wasn’t afraid. See, the government was capitalizing off of our fears. Usually when an entity can make money off of you, you’re valuable, but in an instance where there are millions of you, what then? We had a choice and we chose to be cattle. We were then led, bells clinking, on a wild goose chase for Osama bin Laden.

And there was terrorism. The word made most Americans fearful, angry and blind to the atrocities being committed in the name of homeland security. There was in increase in racial profiling, a woman was forced by airport security to drink her own breast milk and there were plenty “random” searches. Many grew suspicious after the invasion of Iraq in lieu of Saudi Arabia and the switch from pursuing bin Laden to Saddam Hussein. Disinterest began to set in. The “underground” videos of bin Laden sparked less shockvalue and more humor after awhile. President Bush’s term in office had ended and President Barack Obama took office. After this milestone in history, Americans largely went on with their lives.

Then there was yesterday.
I fell asleep early and missed it all but Osama bin Laden was caught, killed and his body was sent out to sea. I didn’t feel nearly any of the emotion that I felt on 9/11. I felt strangely empty. I could not understand for the life of me why people would celebrate death. We may have to match murder with murder in the name of justice but none of this is celebratory. There were groups who rejoiced when 9/11 happened but many more countries and people stood in solidarity with us. How does it make us look to engage ourselves in the same grotesque manner?
What’s even more startling is that somehow, to me, the capture and murder of Osama bin Laden doesn’t feel so random. The president’s approval rating leaves much to be desired and there was just much concern about his likelihood of winning a second term. Bin Laden’s head is on the ticket for the president’s re-election campaign. I can’t say that I’m upset about this, but I must acknowledge and accept that this is not the first time approval would have been won off of the loss of human life.

Was the death of Osama bin Laden a joyous occasion for you? (Take the poll on the homepage.)Have you lost anyone in the 9/11 attacks? Has justice been served? Do you feel safe?

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