Osama bin Laden Dead – Where Does One Begin?

9/11 memorial lights in NYC (Copywright: Missy Gluckmann)

The news is jaw dropping. It is raw, huge. It fills the room, the country, the world. Osama bin-Laden is dead.

I wrote a blog post just a few days ago about teachable moments with the tenth anniversary of 9/11 in mind.  I could not have imagined that bin Laden would be killed by US special forces days later.

I am from New York.  I am American.  I am a world citizen, or at least someone who aims to be.  I have written extensively about Islamophobia as a result of 9/11.

I feel a flood of emotions – they range from grateful to numb, relief to sadness.  People on Facebook are arguing over who deserves the credit – “Bush or Obama.”  Others are celebrating in the streets outside of the White House chanting “USA.” I’m proud of my country, however I want someone to be standing outside that building holding up a sign that says “Peace.”

Our nephew is in Afghanistan tonight.  He woke up to the news, elated and shocked.  I want to believe he has been there for a reason. Then again, the bridge builder in me resists.

I can still see the Twin Towers in my mind.  They are bright – the glorious sun is glistening off of their glass.  I see them at night, many lights turned on around each floor, sucking up energy as they stand as a beacon at the base of Manhattan. I recall getting out of the subway weeks after the attacks and I looked up to find that “sure thing” landmark to direct me around my beloved city.  Gone. Only blue sky remains. I put my hand up to my face and turn my head. I cannot look. It is like losing a limb and feeling it, the phantom limb.

This is a teachable moment, I’m certain. This will be remembered in our history books.  This evil, hateful, vengeful man is gone to wherever one goes when you die after murdering thousands upon thousands of people.  Yet, I have no idea how to explain to our youth, at least tonight, what a terrorist being killed means to the world.  I hope it means more peace for all of us, but I’m uncertain.

I think about the wife of a co-worker from NYU who climbed to the roof of the towers, trying to be rescued as she stayed on the cell phone with her spouse. I think of the two people who felt that leaping to their death, hand in hand, was a better option than being burned alive by the intense heat of the flames.  I think about the children who never met their fathers, the mothers who gave birth without the loving support of their husbands. I think about the firefighters and police who ran into the buildings to save lives, but lost their own instead. I think of those who survived, only to barely survive.  I think of those who were witnesses, like my beloved Tony, who suffered tremendous anxiety from watching the grand scale loss of human life and who lost their ability to talk about the day because the wounds are too deep, too much for the heart and mind to bear.

Then there are those brave men and women who are abroad, fighting for the cause of freedom.  Even when it is imperfect, I feel such tremendous gratitude for their bravery, their steadfast belief in this country and its values.  And I am angry when our media and government hide the agony of a flag covered casket from our pure eyes.  We know we are at war.  Don’t treat us like children.

Tonight, I am still digesting this news.  The consultant in me quickly “tweeted” that study abroad offices need to reach out to students abroad as there could be serious repercussions for bin Laden’s death. That is the reality of what we live with today.  The New Yorker is me longs to be home, feeling the energy of my beloved city and reveling in the unity that we felt after 9/11, at least for a few short weeks. My heart wants to curl up into a ball, huddling close to those I love.  It cries for peace, for healing, for days when the hardest thing about traveling was remembering whether or not you packed the right shoes, not whether you would remember to take them off at the security check.

Goodbye bin-Laden.  Go away forever.  Let us get on with our work.  Let our young people know a world without talk of terrorism, 9/11, or war.

And NYC, my deeply loved city, please sleep well tonight.

 

 

  • Lora Lunt

    Your reflection greatly moved me. Your feelings about a city that I do not know but that I can relate to on the human level, as we are shaped by the spaces around us. Especially the mixed feelings of relief that one threat is reduced, and yet the hope for peace in a world without violence; and, in my case, the belief that violence cannot be the best means of attaining world peace, but that we should rather learn to think like other people, learn their languages, understand their aspirations, and work for social justice to amend the conditions that provoke terrorism.

    • Missy Gluckmann

      Thank you for the v. kind words Lora. We can only move forward with peaceful intentions and that is why I write this blog.

  • Susal Collins

    As a US citizen who was living abroad (in Nepal) on 9/11 and for the next two and a half years, I had a very different experience then, and probably as a result a different reaction to Osama bin Laden's death now.

    I see bin Laden the terrorist leader partly as a creation of US foreign policy. Our government supported him to foment violent anti-western sentiments and organize militias to force the Soviets out of Afghanistan, a situation in which he gained power, terrorist skills, resources, followers, and resentment that combined with other factors leading up to his infamous coordination of the attacks on 9/11. In a way, the US government/military has now killed our version of Frankenstein.

    Reportedly, US citizens across the county are "rejoicing" in the killing of bin Laden. I was shocked by this, seeing the element of revenge in it more than the element of relief. Several SIT PIM alumni posted a quote on facebook that stated what I feel:

    "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." –Martin Luther King, Jr.

    • Missy Gluckmann

      I agree that we, as a country, sadly, do a v. good job of creating some of the issues we must ultimately deal with. I posted that same quote – and interestingly, someone told me that is wasn't quite a MLKJ quote, but a mix of his words and the original poster – regardless, it gets many people's sentiments across very well.

  • Beautifully said… the icon is dead … let us continue to be weary of his followers. May those who lost love ones on 9/11 feel complete. And may our men and women in the military continue to strive to "keep the Peace". God Bless America for its people … we are strong and we are determined. Let's join together for the good of our country.

    • Missy Gluckmann

      I have listened to many interviews with family of the 9/11 victims – so far most are saying that there is still an empty seat at their tables and this doesn't change much. I think that is a really appropriate reflection – something we aren't always so good at in this country (reflecting, deeply, letting it simmer, resonate, etc). I do hope that the news brings unity, something we had for fleeting moments after 9/11 and that we have long since lost. We are an incredible country during hard times – when we practice humility and support of our fellow man – and I really hope we will see more of that.

  • Thank you for this thoughtful post. Well said with muc heart.