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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. odgie

    Guys, lay off. You have to admit, that the past 10 years haven't exactly been the easiest. Sure, Bin Laden's death may not change things drastically, but, frankly, we can't know that for sure yet. And of course she's emotional. I don't think anyone can be entirely rational about this, not right now. I wasn't entirely comfortable with the celebrations myself, but I'm not gonna lie, I'm happy he's not in this world anymore. Bin Laden may not be your boogie man, but he was still the most obvious face of terror.
    And stop insulting her college education. At least she's getting one.

    May 19, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  2. Ed C

    This is bigger than what people think, we should not be happy that he is dead, God was going to judge him anyways. Death is nothing compare to what is in store for him. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. We must not kill our fellow human beings but kill the lie and darkness with the Truth. Paul warned us of this "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." This lie started around 600 AD, thanks to a Fallen Angel confusing one person. This was all a plan of Satan, confuse all human beings with false religions to divide us and kill each other, and to never put our eyes on the One True God, Jesus Christ. People that believe that lie will continue to try to kill their fellow humans, only the Truth will set them free. So do not hate the sinner, hate the sin. There is only One Way, One Truth and Life and his is name is Jesus Christ. Amen

    May 19, 2011 at 11:45 am |
  3. Susan

    I understand where she is coming from. It is one thing to celebrate a death, but this is not whats happening here. She clearly stated that the celebration is on behalf of The Most Wanted Terriost in the World is no more. I see that most of you are against what has happened, not realizing Osama was plotting another attack against the U.S. I am surprised by your actions toward her comment. This is our Country. We have the right to protect it whether you like it or not. If it means taking a Terrorist out, that is clearly what we must do to protect our own. Wise up people. The bottom line is, if we are attacked again like 9/11, it could be someone you may know that would die. Makes me wonder how that would make you feel. Or, would you feel sorry for the Terriost and forgive him for taking your love one away. I think Not. You say what you want now because no one in your life were killed as a result of it. Lets just hope it never effect you like it did most of us. I

    May 19, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  4. dennis

    Sorry but this is naive and your CNN Blog teacher deserves no recognition for allowing you to post this toward CNN. First of all, you have suffered little to zero comparison of suffering that humans outside of North America experience. To quote you, you said "A man who hurt so many people will never hurt anyone again"..... Take a look at your own government. It would be shocking to see the death toll presidents have compiled. Of course, you'll never understand that since you never experienced the sufferings of an Iraqi child. Perhaps seeing your own parents shot in front of you by "soldiers of fortune". You naive reporter. You celebrate the death of a man and say "it is the celebration of justice". Do you know what true justice is? Have you ever met Osama bin Laden? Do you know both sides of the story?... An even better question.... You who claim to know justice and the shortcomings of bin Laden......Do you perceive yourself to be a God?

    May 19, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • Brooke

      And you have met Osama? Tell me, what kind of wonderful man is he? Are you an American? Were you not angry/upset/scared on this day? I was 15 and remember how scared everyone was at school on Long Island, they would not let us leave the building, we were on lockdown. We remained on lockdown for the rest of my high school career, not allowed to leave for lunch as seniors or go on trips. On that day so many of my friends panicked because they could not get in touch with their parents that worked in Manhattan. Many people my age lost their fathers who were NYC firefighters. It was frightening and horrific. So don't tell us that we don't know what scared is. We had to deal with constant threats in the city and failed terrorist plots. Yes it's all very scary, how are you to leave the island when Manhattan bridges/tunnels/trains blow up? Of course we celebrated this man's death that was the cause of so much grief. No, it doesn't mean it will end. No, I will not see Osama's side on this situation because I am not an extremist Muslim.

      May 19, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  5. Paulette

    I not only read what she said, I actually felt her pain. Very well said.

    May 19, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  6. Jdub

    Hardship? What hardship have you been through? And YOUR generation? I don't think so, it is more my generation. I am 34 years old and even thoughs older than me can relate. We had to suffer through the loss of friends and colleagues, you were 9, we had to endure the drop in housing markets and go through foreclosure, you were 12, we have had to re position our 401k's and retirement plans because of the huge hit in the markets around the world, you were 16, We have had to rebound, grit our teeth, grin and bare it, you are 19 and now writing an article like you have experience the world within the safe haven of 10 years of school. I think an article like this does a disservice to those fool enough to empathize with you.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • Mr. Hyde

      I'm in "her generation" and I so wish there was a Like button for this.

      May 19, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • Idk

      I think you sound like a fool. Everyone thinks their generation suffered the most. Get over it. Stop whinning... Poor 34 year olds, they have to think about their retirement plans and their 401K's... Whatever will they do? You act like you went through the Great Depression, when we didn't even get close to re-living the 30's. I don't agree with the writer in this article, and I certainly don't agree with you. Stop complaining. Geez.
      Also, you are wrong if you think that children don't face the same hardhips that their parents do. They experience them, just in different ways. While our parents were losing their jobs and their homes, children were losing the feeling of safety, the promise of food on the table and the roofs over their heads. Those hardships affect everyone.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Woody

      Well said. She knows nothing of hardship yet.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  7. Matt

    I am a youth and this is my generation, I have worked extremely hard during my University education in order to be able to afford its benefits. If there is one thing that my generation needs to understand it is that education does not make you an automatic expert on every matter, only those who are not willing to accept work that is given and move up the ladder of success are over educated and in my opinion are loss in today’s society. This article is an atrocity and should not be part of any CNN related news or programming. I am at this point truly depressed and disheartened to have read such comments by Lauren Kolodkin and I trust that those who have read my response understand that not every youth of our generation is so damaged.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:32 am |
  8. Kris

    As a Gen Y'er, just wanted to say that I loved your post. I believe in right and wrong. Bin Laden deserved a painful death and I don't think it will ever be enough to quantify how bad he has messed up our economy and lives these past ten years.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:26 am |
    • Mr. Hyde

      Because that totally justifies murder without a trial and the sick catharsis so many Americans experienced at the mention of Osama's death. Wise up lady, start thinking with the logical part of your brain instead of the emotionally damaged part. You are the stereotypical text-book definition of indoctrinated.

      May 19, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  9. Sam

    After 9/11 a few people in nations far removed from yours celebrated, life in those places had been much harder on them then the past decade has been on what you refer to as your generation. They felt much of this hardship was caused by your nation, and in all honesty they were not entirely wrong about the matter. They were, however, wrong to celebrate such a thing, their views narrow minded, their believe of what it would mean contorted and twisted. As are yours.

    You, or anyone else, want better times? Do what the generation of Americans did in the decades in the middle of the last century, shut up, go to work and build it.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:02 am |
  10. Bob

    Did we really kill Laden for the reasons we are being told?
    Fact: Americans are LIED TO. None of is know the truth and the ones that do cant tell or nobody believes them.
    Its like starting to read a book at the part when the "bad guy" gets revenge for something the "good guys" did to his people.
    Riddle me this batman ... Do you really KNOW what goes on in the middle east? Have you ever asked yourself the question.. "Why does Bin Laden and AlQuida hate americans so much?" Did you ever get an honest answer?
    We as Americans have no control over what our government does, however WE PLAY THE PRICE.
    A person died and your government LIED to your face. Told you only the information they wanted you to know and brainwashed you into thinking what we did was good. He may have been a threat, but perhaps there was a good reason?!?!?! His death will create more problems and when another bomb goes off or another building falls perhaps you will look back at this article and "Celebrate". /rant

    May 19, 2011 at 7:37 am |
    • Brooke

      We will "play" the price Bob? Hmm, tell me Mr. Consipracy theory wiz.....what exactly is going on in the Middle East. Please, do write a book about it...or send me a link to your blog. xoxoxoxo

      May 19, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  11. Dr Brown

    Lauren Kolodkin has written a moronic piece and I fear a university education is largely wasted on her. I highly doubt she is reflecting her generation's views accurately (perhaps her opinions reflect a minority of conformists who do not think for themselves). Feel sorry for her and those that agree with these sentiments.

    May 19, 2011 at 6:20 am |
    • Mr. Hyde

      I concur with you. This was complete garbage that was emotionally over-charged and totally devoid of critical thinking. What it must be like to be such a simple creature as Lauren Kolodkin.

      May 19, 2011 at 8:19 am |
  12. DiscountRhino

    Really? I mean.. really?
    This article is ridiculous, I'm glad the views aren't shared by anyone else but you, the death of a human being, caused by another, is NEVER a good thing. PERIOD. It doesn't matter how bad you had it or anyone else, we never knew the full story, and I doubt we're ever going to find out, but starting not one conflict, but two, over the premise of..what I think was a scapegoat, is ultimately going to be our downfall, it's sad but look how bad this country is doing, you don't feel it, but read the news, the real news, see what's really going on, I honestly don't see us being stable like this for another 20-30 years unless something DRASTIC changes. To the maker of this article, you should be ashamed of yourself. Done. Just done.

    May 19, 2011 at 5:48 am |
  13. chana

    You think that your celebrating a dawn of a new day? In a sense yes im sure everyone but his own ppl are happy hes gone, but dont you think thats going to create more problems, us as americans still going to have to watch out back, because you know they will come back and probably twice as hard, hopefully not, wish this could be all over

    May 19, 2011 at 4:54 am |
  14. andrew

    Is this a joke?

    May 19, 2011 at 3:46 am |
  15. David Riker

    Lauren, you are no better then bin Lauden. You are a bad Christian and a bad American.

    May 19, 2011 at 3:40 am |
    • Mr. Hyde

      YES! Thank you for saying as much.

      May 19, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  16. Pixie

    I don't know why you are celebrating. It doesn't change anything. There was evil in the world before Bin Laden and there will be evil after Bin Laden. Very sick to celebrate anyone's death in my opinion.

    May 19, 2011 at 3:35 am |
  17. Dan

    This article is pathetic. What a drama llama, omg we have it so bad.

    We wasted trillions of dollars and accomplished nothing, what is there to celebrate?

    May 19, 2011 at 2:59 am |
  18. Chuck

    What an over-dramatization! I was 9 too when the twin towers fell, but Osama was never my "boogie man". A short while after the attacks I felt that 9/11 had hardly taken a toll on my quality of life. Obviously I have no basis for comparison, but I feel that I had a completely normal childhood in the years following 9/11/2001. In addition, the passage of time had caused most Americans to virtually forget about Osama before his death. Before he was killed, bin Laden had not crossed my mind in years.

    May 19, 2011 at 12:12 am |
  19. higgsworth

    This is a sad display of how our youth is forever intimidated and indoctrinated into imperialist racism, US exceptionalism and the belief that human rights are exchangable for security. Thanks to government megaphones like CNN, the broad majority of the country especially the young folks are losing their ability to think critically and challenge their governments. They actually start believing that Dems and Republicans checking each other is all checks & balances is about.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
  20. Dominicano

    i guess your comfortable life before Bin Laden's death has changed drastically since his death. Quite frankly, nothing has changed. Those who mourn their loved ones aren't the ones running around mad like the college students did. By the way, college students, people in your generation, go mad for superbowl games, march madness, etc. Don't say you had nothing to celebrate until now. Even when there's nothing worthwhile to celebrate, people your generation celebrate anyway.
    Lacking depth, juvenile, over the top.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:04 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.