The Sound of Silence

Another month has come and gone without a blog post from me. I know I said I’d be better about keeping up with things, but as they say the road to something is paved with . . . something. I really don’t know.

Moving on. You may recall I started this blog on September 11, 2010. I never imagined that 8 months later, Osama bin Laden would be dead. The last few days have been pretty emotional for me. First, a little about this post’s song-related title. I had a lot to choose from, but “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” was too obvious (and overdone) and “Under the Sea” seemed far too tongue-in-cheek inappropriate, even for me. The Sound of Silence seems fitting, since there has been little silence since the news broke, whereas some would have preferred a little more silence.

The lack of silence is the “celebrations” around the United States Sunday night as the news of bin Laden’s death broke. Many people believe they were in poor taste. We all agree that no one should rejoice in someone death, no matter how evil. Someone even invented a quote attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr to make that point, and it took over Facebook. The sentiment of that quote and the intent behind it is admirable. We shouldn’t rejoice in someone’s death. And some of the revelers seemed far too happy. Hell, I even tweeted about it. But everyone seems to admit that the world is a better place without bin Laden in it. Sure, al Qaeda still exists, and was made up of various off shoots long before bin Laden’s death, meaning his death hasn’t “solved” the problem. But for those of us that lived through September 11, it is momentous.

As far as the (in)appropriateness of the celebrations, I think truth lies somewhere in the middle. Psychologists have tried to rationalize it as young people who came of age during the last 10 years, those still in grade school in 2001. For some of them, bin Laden was the face of evil. Something other than human, a virus that needed to be eradicated. The sudden outpouring of emotion, coupled with crowd mentality, appeared foreign to those that weren’t there. I admit, when I heard people chanting “USA” outside the White House, I was torn between a sense of patriotism and a sense of bewilderment at was I was witnessing. One clip from Fox News showed Geraldo Rivera interviewing a DC college student, proudly proclaiming that he had two finals the next day and wasn’t going to study for them because “We just killed bin Laden!” It seemed inappropriate, but I understood him.

I understood because I was there on September 11. I was not near the Pentagon that day, much like some New Yorkers were not near the Twin Towers. Everyone in both cities were affected differently, some more directly than others, but both cities mourned as one. Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania was either bound for the U.S. Capitol or the White House. If those courageous passengers had not taken matters into their own hands, the devastation in DC could have been far worse. When they evacuated the Capitol and congressional office buildings, we didn’t know what was coming. Reports flooded in that the State Department had been attacked, that buildings near the White House were on fire. When I returned home, sonic booms from F-16s out of Andrews Air Force Base shook my house. I was there. I remember the fear and anxiety, the tears as I watched the towers in New York fall.

I was alone. TV was the only news. Phone lines were clogged, delaying my efforts to contact my parents. It was a day spent in disbelief. A day spent in silence.

On May 1, 2011, though, no one was alone, and they were far from silent. Twitter was the first to break the news. I just happened to log in to check messages before going to bed, when I saw the notice the President was going to speak. I had no idea what it was bout, but could tell from the posts that it was something big. I assumed it was about Libya or some such. It wasn’t until I started seeing bits and pieces about bin Laden appear, slowly at first, then much faster, that I suddenly realized what was happening. I grabbed Shannon and we turned on the TV. My emotions got the better of me. I broke down and cried as the news confirmed what my Twitter stream was already telling me. I was reliving the horror of September 11 all over again. But this time, my tears were not of fear or remorse. They were tears of relief. It was over. I have been carrying a weight around for 9 and a half years. It never weighed me down that heavily, but it was there lurking in the background. When I finally turned in for the night, I went into my son’s room, kissed him, and rubbed his hair. I cried some more, thankful that he will not have to grow up in a world where bin Laden still lives.

So, let’s not vilify those that choose to express their emotions over Osama bin Laden’s death in a way we do not approve. We don’t know how they feel. Their emotions simply got the better of them. They were not celebrating someone’s death. A symbol that defined their youth had been erased, and they reacted the best way they knew how. More importantly, they weren’t alone.

For me, I am equal parts happy, relieved, and saddened. A turning point has been reached. The man responsible for more than 3,000 dead is no more. But the death of one tyrant will not bring back those we lost. Our men and women in uniform are still in harm’s way. And somewhere, another terrorist is plotting his next move. But I still sense that something has changed. And that’s a good thing.

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