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May 4th, 2011
12:01 PM ET

My Take: No apology for celebrating after bin Laden's death

Editor's Note: Lauren Kolodkin is an undergraduate student at Boston University; among her professors is CNN Belief Blog contributor Stephen Prothero, who wrote that the celebrations that followed bin Laden's death made him cringe.

By Lauren Kolodkin, Special to CNN

For the past 10 years, my generation has had it pretty bad.

Our youth was taken away by the attacks on 9/11 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our teen years were pockmarked by the Great Recession. Our college days are splattered with political unrest. And when we graduate from college, we will emerge overeducated and underprepared into an America with no jobs, no opportunities and no hope.

My generation has been told for years that our world is a place where there is little reason to celebrate anything.

But then, on Sunday night, President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden, leader of al Qaeda, mastermind of the attacks of September 11, 2001, was killed in Pakistan. The man who murdered thousands of Americans and instigated the war on terror is finally gone. And my generation celebrated.

Hundreds of college students across the city gathered in Boston Common and cheered together. I went from my dorm at BU. We cursed bin Laden and sang rousing renditions of “God Bless America.” We smiled and laughed and waved at cameras. A friend of mine turned to me and said, “Someday we’ll talk about this with our children. This is amazing.” For a night, at least, we forgot our troubles and reveled in the joy of our peers.

But what exactly were we celebrating that night? Someone’s death?

I know some students who shied away from the celebrations, in Boston and elsewhere, because they felt uncomfortable cheering someone else’s demise. We are taught by our parents, by God, by the world around us that life is sacred, and death is a time for reflection, not revelry. For some people, this death renews memories of a mother or father lost, a friend gone or a life ruined.

Closure is rarely delivered by vengeance, and this death surely isn’t the end of our sorrow. A bullet through the icon of terror does not bring your sister or brother back, it doesn’t rebuild the twin towers, and it doesn’t erase a decade of sadness and hardship.

I cannot imagine what it would have been like to lose someone on 9/11. I’m not from New York. I don’t know anyone who works at the Pentagon. No one I knew died on that day. But I remember watching my fourth grade teacher cry that morning and refusing to tell us why, because she’d been instructed to leave that grim task to our parents.

I remember getting off the bus to find my mother waiting to tell me what had happened. I remember seeing the smoke on the television screen, choking me from a distance, clips of disaster playing over and over again.

I remember seeing Osama bin Laden’s face for the first time. I was 9 years old.

My generation is cursed by those images of horror and destruction. We are cursed by that face. And since that day, we have been burdened with the consequences.

But on May 1, 2011, something changed. A man who hurt so many people will never hurt anyone again. I know that this is not the last of horrible men, but at least it is the last of this horrible man, this symbol of hatred and war and bloodshed.

That is why my generation celebrated on Sunday night and Monday morning. We did not celebrate his death; we celebrated the dawn of a new day without bin Laden. We celebrate because maybe the world isn’t as bad as they told us. We celebrate because we can.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Lauren Kolodkin

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 9/11 • Death • Osama bin Laden • Terrorism

soundoff (642 Responses)
  1. myoleman

    The death of an unredeemed sinner is not a reason for rejoicing, for a soul has been lost to Satan. The Bible says that the angels in heaven rejoice when a sinner on earth repents. Let's do the same. Rejoice for a repented sinner, and mourn for a lost soul.

    May 18, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
  2. Joe Bob Briggs

    An eye for an eye!

    May 18, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  3. Airica

    I liked the article. I don't have a college education and I am not as good with grammar as many replies here so I am sorry if this is poorly written.

    I was glad to see another person's thoughts on the emotions they felt when hearing Osama Bin Laden was dead. I felt happiness when I heard the president's announcement but then felt guilty about feeling it. I then realized it was relief that I was really feeling and a little closure. I was thinking maybe it can help some of the families who lost loved ones knowing that the person who ochestrated the attack was dead. At least we don't have to fear that person anymore. I know there are others out there who want to end our way of life but at least he is gone.

    Like I said I liked the article. I am glad it was posted.

    May 18, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
  4. lyrical saint

    Okay, so are we going to celebrate when george w bush dies ? he killed many innocent people ? Barack Obama ? what happens in the public eye, is somewhat the same millions of miles away. attacks on many innocent people in times of war ordered by people chosen by our presidents kill millions in a year. i find it disgraceful that we would celebrate the death of a terrorist, instead of remembering our fallen. I find this article to be full of crap. yes we have had a hard upbrining, but instead of partying and celebrating the death of osama bin laden why not put the beer cans down, and help those by setting up funds to support the families of those fallen, join human rights agencies to find more dimplomatic soultions to fighting terrorism. dont use the death of someone for a reason to exhale. no one talked about bin laden for the past 5 years. he was an evil individual , and be thankful hes gone but no need to party on the streets like its st patricks day. pure ignorance. –

    May 18, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  5. qed3deq

    Hey CNN moderators: I've used not profanity, or derogatory language, and I haven't been disrespectful of other. I've only been critical of CNN's general news coverage, and stated my position on the personal commentary presented here. Seem sort of wrong that I've served in the military, defending our freedom, only to be censored in a public forum by CNN. Thanks a lot for upholding the finest tradition of the 4th branch of government; the press.

    May 18, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  6. Carolyn Baker

    She and her peers are still screwed. All we know is that we don't know what the heck happened ... none of it makes sense and Bin Laden could be in witness protection for all we really know. The only thing for sure about most things is that it is a total lie or a partial lie. There are too many people on the planet ... technology has replaced dang near everyone... So who are they going to feed us next to fill the empty place that use to contain hope, and a belief in our country. All of this is pathetic and the horror is our powerlessness. If they turn out the lights we are lost.

    May 18, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  7. BootsNYC

    I agree with many of the comments on this blog post regarding the authors personality, however, I'd really like to focus more on the subject of the post, should we apologize for the post-death celebrations. I feel, at this point, its a moot point. There should have been no celebration to begin with. It was beyond tacky. I wouldn't have objected to private high fives or cheers at the bar, but the ignorant public party seemed innapropirate. Besides that, as a resident of NYC, I'm more anxiouos and fearful of an attacked than ever. Killing OBL and celebrating in such a crude way is surely perpetuating the hatred....

    May 18, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  8. Amal1988

    newsreader I see your point of view and do agree with you to some extent. But the fact of the matter remains that a) Age brings wisdom. It simply does. Her lack of experience, which is apparent, shows that she didn't really understand the implications of 9/11. And b) If lets say you're right, then at the very least they should have picked someone who had a more passionate view about people who died on 9/11 instead of just ranting about college and jobs. Not to say the economy isn't important, but the loss of human life far outweighed any of the other affects of this tyrant and that would have made most readers understand, possibly, why americans were celebrating.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  9. Amal1988

    okay honestly, here's the thing. Before I say anything, I will say that I'm Muslim so you can put your own bias on my opinion if you choose.

    Whether anyone chose to celebrate this event or not is no importance to me. I have never and would never celebrate anyone's death and I know that because I'm well aware of who I am. But this is besides the point.

    What I want to say here is that this girl seems honestly like a spoiled brat. They should have at least picked someone who had a more passionate, personal view about their reason to "celebrate" at least. This girl sounds like someone who had a cookie taken away from a bully and now the bully is being disciplined and she's happy. Saying that she was "robbed" at the age of 9 doesn't really make sense. From the looks of it she doesn't seem as though she was robbed of much.

    I was really hoping to find this article to make some sense of the partying that went on after OBL's death (justice was served), but this article only made me realize that I'm actually glad I wasn't one of the young hipsters that was frolicking the streets.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  10. newsreader

    It's not really fair to imply that someone's youth and youthful perspective make her opinions unworthy of attention. I understand the point that this author's opinions are affected by her age and experience, but it doesn't make sense to say she is wrong and her thoughts are trivial just because she is young. And if a male colllege student wrote an article you disagreed with, I doubt if you would call him a "little boy." My opinions and experience are different from this author's, but I think this piece was well-written, and it was brave of her to express her views in public.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  11. Mose

    As another college student and one of America's youth, I find it ignorant and silly to claim that our generation has been "defined" or truly challenged by these events. Yes, they are significant, I am not debating that; However, to state that for the past ten years our generation has had it "pretty bad" is a bold faced lie. The wars and political unrest have had little place in our homes or in our streets, and no matter how terrible this recession has been, the majority of people– and certainly students who can afford to attend BU– have been able to put food on the table. Again, this is not to undermine the importance of the events, but merely to point out that our generation has not experienced them to a degree significantly different than the rest of the population.
    To claim otherwise is to simply provide excuses for the ignorant behavior of some who celebrated death. If your parents or siblings or loved ones were at war, if you personally were impacted by this man's actions, if you were tracking the updates on his location as the military searched- then, and only then, do I care to accept your choice to celebrate death. Otherwise, don't pretend you were holding on to this or that it meant so much to you that true joy for the "dawn of a new day" was what you acted on.
    And if you insist, try to do so without identifying yourself with ME and the rest of "your" generation.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  12. Rose

    This entire post reminds me of Billy Joel's song 'We Didn't Start the Fire' written as a reminder that every generation has issues to deal with. Celebration or no celebration I don't agree that our generation has had it any worse than any other generation, we just have different issues.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  13. Don M

    Clearly this little girl knows little about anything in life to have such a simplistic view. Nothing justifies celebrating a death because that brings us down to the level of folks like Bin laden who celebrate the deaths of people killed by their terror attacks. And let us not forget that we as in the USA has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan counting it as collateral damage. If you really want to know what being in a bad place and suffering is all about, go and talk to those folks. I hope Lauren will research in the future and post something really worthwhile instead of an infantile little piece.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  14. qed3deq

    @Alex Oliveira – I'm not exactly sad that Bin Laden was killed, but I agree with you that we need to do a better job of deciding what to celebrate in this country. When I came back from Desert Storm, I don't recall people dancing in the street. Every month American men and women come home from the Middle East, some severely disabled, some in caskets, and there's no one dancing in the street in celebration their sacrifices, or at the very least holding candle vigils. No where in this girl's piece does it talk about those that gave it all for their country during these past years. No where does it talk about the families of those killed in 911. It's just a kid who seems to care more about the piece of the pie she's been denied; as if a poor economy is justification for us losing our American values of right and wrong. Yet she chooses to celebrate one man's death. Seems more like she's just another cog in a generation raised on a healthy dose of Black Hawk Down and Pulp Fiction. I for one don't want Americans to act like many did in the Middle East after 911, by dancing in the street to celebrate death. We're better than that.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Alex Oliveira

      Cheers to you dude and thank you for your service. Shame on us for dancing when you returned.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Brad

      Your service is appreciated, but that is not what this article is about. Not every article about Binladen has to also be about the military. As for dancing in the streets, well, sorry you diagree but, doesn't matter, we have the right to do what we want, and I for one am glad that that miserable, worthless human life is gone, that he will not be resposible for any more deaths, somone else will be, but not him, and that is a good reason to celebrate. Death is only ugly, when it happens to the good ones. When it happens to the bad ones, death is a very very very good thing.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • qed3deq

      Thank you Brad. And you definitely have the right to celebrate, although there are many things we have the right to do, but that doesn't mean we should. I'm proud to be an American. I'm proud to have served my country. But I'm also a Christian, and I just don't think celebrating someone death is what we, as a Christian-Judeo society, should become. I've seen other societies celebrate death; those images of people dancing in the streets and burning the US flag after 9/11 still bother me. I'm glad that isn't the America I've grown up in.

      May 18, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
  15. Alex Oliveira

    Dear writer,

    Please list and support 5 things in your life today that would have been different (and better) had 9-11 not happened. Please tell me about this big impact it has had on your generation. I'm fascinated to know.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  16. Jim Rousch

    We are Americans and should not apologize for a terrorist who murdered 3,000 of our citizens. We have every right to jump up and down in celebration just as much as those in the Middle East when we were attacked.

    May 72 CRONES in the Afterlife offer themselves to him! Hey! Nowhere is it stated that the virgins would be YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Jim Rousch

      BTW, I am a representative of Generation X, at age 40.

      The only reason why Bush didn't have the balls to find Osama and kill him is because of the fact that the OBL's family has ties to GWB's family.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Alex Oliveira

      The right to do something says absolutely nothing about wether you should.

      Eye for an eye right? All the same kind of BS that has kept things bad for generations.

      So you have nothing to add to the discussion...got it.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Brad

      I agree Jim, celebrating the death of a killer is always a good think. Is it barbaric? Yes, but it is also release. Osama deserves no respect, his death should be celebrated, and all killers out their should know, that when they die, their death will be enjoyed, celebrated, because they are hated, because they are looked at as no bodies, which they are. Doesn't make it right, doesn't make it wrong, it's just emotion.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • theMiddleMan67

      Fantastic! I love it when we act like uneducated people from a 3rd world country. They danced on our helicopter, so I am going to dance and chant "USA, USA" over the execution of a criminal. Glad to hear that we are so much more "civilized and educated" than "those people over there".

      May 18, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • Adeel

      A question for Middle man "what was that destroyed heli doing there on which ppl were dancing?? was it carrying Aid?? was it carrying injured ppl to hospitals / safety?? what was it actually doing there??"

      I do not need your reply, it's a question for you to think over!

      May 19, 2011 at 6:54 am |
  17. patriotfan54

    funny the older generation who went throuoght the 60s and 70s are the ones bashing the younger generation. but you guys might ave grown up in hard times. but then got to adulthood through economic and financial prosperity over twenty years that got to see america become the long superpower. but didnt learn anything from the past and got us to where we are today. ohh but its wrong for my generation to complain. a bunch of hypocrits

    May 18, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • qed3deq

      @patriotfan54 – After reading the lack of substance in your posts, I can't help but think that Wm Shakespeare had people like you in mind when he wrote: "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage. And then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

      May 18, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Brad

      Don't worry patriot, most of the posters on cnn are miserable nobodies, so they take it out on others online because they can get away with it. They would never dare do that face to face because they are actually cowardly people. Have your celebration, enjoy it, and be proud of the things you do. Some have it harder then us, and some have it better, all any of us can do is understand what we have been through, you can't really understand what others have been through, unless you yourself have lived through it.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • qed3deq

      Funny Brad, I don't remember seeing you in the Gulf War in 1991. And after surviving the Gulf War and the leishmaniasis I got there, I'm pretty sure I could stand up to anyone you want to put in front of me.

      May 18, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  18. patriotfan54

    so i guess most off the people on hear was saddend by the fact that bin laden was killed. you think you would learn from past generations. the young generation stood up after being attacked involved in two wars. and a horrible economy and. won those two wars and got our most feared enemy. we celebrated a victory. and you all talk like our generation is diferent from your.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  19. chad bro chill

    i fail to understand how affluent white college students from the northeastern united states have reason to complain about their lot in life or bemoan how greatly their generation has struggled, especially due to the events that took place on 9/11.

    as other posters have rightly observed, other american generations have had to endure much worse and current generations in countries such as iraq, afghanistan, libya, bolivia, china, somalia, et al., live in far worse conditions. i do not see that the self-indulgence or materialism of upper middle-class americans has been impeded in any way by the events of 9/11. the celebrations of 1 may, in all their drunken revelry, and this livejournal-esque post evidence that american youth are as obnoxious, oblivious, and narcissistic as ever.

    why is cnn providing a platform for such trivial whining?

    May 18, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Alex Oliveira

      If 9-11 is your first memory then you havven't lived long enough to know if it's bad or not. Sorry.

      It's 30 somethings defining themselves by the challenger explosion, it's absurd.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • Leif

      She has just as much of a right to express her opinion as anyone else. And I agree with her main point: no apology for celebrating the death of a mass murdering religious fanatic.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Alex Oliveira

      Who is saying she doesn't have the right? The right to do somehting doesn't mean she has the right to not be criticized. Free speech goes both ways. I'm sick of hearing about her rights, we all have the same rights to expression, including the right to tell her to never post such drab again.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • chad bro chill

      alex oliveira: were you replying to my comment? if so, the response makes little sense.

      leif: no one is disputing the author's "right" to express an opinion, but rather how obnoxious, self-absorbed, and naive she is in decrying her generations "hardships".

      May 18, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Alex Oliveira

      I was replyingt to lief

      May 18, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Leif

      Quote: "why is cnn providing a platform for such trivial whining?"
      In that statement you are questiong both CNN for letting her express herself,
      and you are questioning her right.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Alex Oliveira

      @lief, she doesn't have the right to post on mass media...she can go tell it on a street corner.

      You must bore your friends with such pedestrain arguments.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • Mike

      Good lord cry me a river about how tough you have had it. "Our youth was taken away by the attacks on 9/11 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq."

      She walked a mile to school in waist deep snow, barefooted and worked in the mines 16 hours a day to put food on the table. All this while sitting on the sofa with the Xbox or Playstation controller in her had. It was tough, but she made it through it.

      Ahhhh the Me Generation

      May 18, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  20. Alex Oliveira

    This was the Rebecca Black of blog posts. A childish view point and a trviial outlook that I wish I wasn't subected to that leads me to confusion as to why such a clearly unqualified person was given a vehicle.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • beel

      maybe everyone thinks you are an arrogant snot..who cares what you think? the rest of us agree with her...we should declare Bin Laden's death a national holiday complete with a parade and fireworks...we could serve "Smoked Muslim Ham" on that day...

      May 18, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Leif

      Read the editor's note which precedes the article. She is responding to a commentary posted on CNN by one of her professors. That's good enough for me. And I agree with her. No apology is needed for celebrating the death of a religious fanatic who murdered thousands.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Alex Oliveira

      Similarly who cares what you think? I'm guessing not many more people than those who care about what I think.

      And actually, the predominat opinion "here" is that she is a know-nothing. Sorry. Not that what most blog commenters matters for anything anyway.

      So how about you say what you want, and I say what I want but in the interim you stop boring me with your touchy feely helpfulness. Good then. bye.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • Alex Oliveira

      Why the hell is CNN posting the response of some random student in the first place? Who cares what she thinks? I wouldn't expect my views to be posted on the splash page either, I'm no one.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • Leif

      If you didn't care about what she thinks, you wouldn't be complaining about it.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • qed3deq

      Beel – so when were elected to speak for all of us? And "arrogance" usually manifests in name calling, i.e., "snot." You and Becca need to stop whinning and try to celebrate life and its possibilities. If our grandparents thought like you two, we would the Great Depression and Hitler regime would still be around. I agree with Alex, CNN is a cowardly rag that claims not to have a political agenda... well whatever, but that still requires them to have some intellectual integrity. There are millions of students her age, with varying opinions... but it's the editorial staff that select which piece runs. Thus, they're responsible for its content. If you don't get that, it's time to repeat some basic college courses.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Lisa

      Atleast Lauren wrote her commentary without placing three typos in one pathetic sentence.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • qed3deq

      @Lisa – You seem to be to the resident grammar authority, so if you'd please catch me up on the definition of "atleast" [sic], I'd be very appreciative. My hunch is that it has something to do with a pot, a kettle, and the color black, but it's just a hunch. (Correcting internet grammar is the last bastion of a weak argument, and a feeble mind.)

      May 18, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • James in NYC

      Here here. Look, our (grand)parents celebrated the dealth of hitler at the end of WWII, which, I find, is understandable. This guy (OBL) while killed fewer people, has caused a much longer pain to us (Hitler: just ~5yrs), cost us (no joke) trillions of dollars that we cannot afford, critically damaging this country's psyche (esp. the younger generation), thousands of additional US lives in Iraq/Afgan/other unknown places, and has affected a younger generation in this country like no other event in the past ever has. One of this country's greatest assets is its overflowing confidence and ability to get things done (vs. any other country). Lauren's generation was denied that (until 2.5wks ago). I saw the twin towers go down with my own eyes and knew people in the towers (I work in the city). So when I learned of that man's demise, it made me immediately think of them and also of my nephew, who also had those images burned into his memory (A youth's mind is more fragile and less developed to process such events vs an adults), fearing the future, fearing the dark, but now no more. With the boogie man gone (I am not making light), maybe now this country can get back its steadfast confience that is the deep envy of so many other countries and, especially, of their citizens.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • schmez

      Hey beel, I'll take my sandwich on rye.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • John Michaelson

      We celebrated the demise of another human being because life is not sacred. Ask any of those that have died in the past 2,000 years how they feel life is sacred. Life is life. We are all born to live and then die – end of story! The only sacred part of life is what you do with it when you are here and for Osama bin Laden, he sealed his doom and knew we were going to take him down (hence the life he led for 10 years). I can only guess that you would give Hitler a reprise because his life was sacred.

      May 18, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.