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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. Iqbal khan

    9-11 who was behind
    check what Alan Sabrosky is saying

    May 21, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
  2. Harb0r

    Like many on this forum, I am of the same generation. However, after hearing Osama's death, there was no joy, there was no closure, only concern. I wasn't just concerned about the potential of future attacks, but also concerned in the fact that people around my age were celebrating over one's death. This wasn't an event worth celebrating over.

    I don't deny the fact that 9/11 happened. I was in school that day. In fact, we could've seen Lower Manhattan. I knew friends who lost a family member. 3,000 people due to 9/11, but how many died afterwards in the name of that day? And I'm not talking just the side for Bin Laden, but also from the American side. How can I not think about the death of those 3,000 without ever glimpsing over those whose innocent lives were taken afterwards, in the name of extremism, in the name of a prolonged conflict, in the name of justice?

    And like other's who say that they didn't have it "pretty bad," I disagree. My life remained comfortable. Of course the attacks lingered in our minds, and the obvious after effects that resulted from 9/11, but my life was comfortable and not as rough. Not everyone suffered who grew up after the attacks.

    Instead of counting bruises, count your blessings, and then see if you had it "pretty bad."

    May 21, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  3. BSweeenz

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

    Really? You sure about that? I'm part of your generation and it's embarrassing how easy we have it.

    May 21, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  4. Randy

    I agree with @Thinkman. I have NEVER seen families doing pump fist after a state execution of a murderer. I have NEVER seen people cheer in the streets after a criminal is executed. I'm 100% certain those idiots cheering hadn't actually lost someone in the attacks. Lastly, Obama said releasing Osama death photos could inflame/inspire the extremist..he doesn't think pictures and videos of these idiots dancing in the streets won't motivate them enough to get revenge??

    May 21, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  5. AMC

    eye for an EYE

    May 21, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  6. Thinkman

    And your folks spent how much on your education? They should get a refund! Of course you celebrated his death and you especially celebrated the way it was done. Spare me the cutesy rationalizations of the morning after! This is NOT a computer game although the White House sure made it look like one. I strongly doubt the crowds would have been so jubilant had we just gotten word that Public Enemy No. 1 died from a heart attack in a cave and he was buried with his family in Saudi Arabia. What is really sad is that your generation never knew the world before 9/11. Back then there was at least the appearance of scruples in this country. You might as well all been in brown shirts burning books. (Go ask your professor what that means... I'm sure that was somehow overlooked in academia of late.) You reminded me of the soccer hooligans of Europe. But most of them have an excuse- they didn't benefit from an "education".

    May 21, 2011 at 6:02 am |
  7. Thinkman

    Death should never be celebrated no matter how necessary it might be. The USA killed someone in cold blood in another country. If that happened here, say Israeli agents killed anyone at all, there would be an uproar. We are not civil, we are not dignified. I can live with that. But do we have to celebrate it?

    May 21, 2011 at 5:43 am |
  8. Elena

    I'm sorry, Lauren, but our generation doesn’t have it half as bad as our forefathers did and in general they managed to keep it together and conduct themselves with grace and a sense of responsibility despite their innocence being taken by everything from Civil War to World Wars, the Holocaust, Vietnam, Korea and the Great Depression just to name a few. The death of any enemy, out of respect to his victims, should bring a chance for deep reflection, unity and healing. Instead we saw drunken mobs taunting and screaming obscenities at anyone who looked foreign to them. How is that righteous? Since when do we as Americans stand for that?
    Your last line “We celebrate because we can.” Is even more revolting to me. Since when has acting "because you CAN" been a reason for doing anything that brings consequences? Did you stop to think about what effect these "celebrations" could have on the families of victims of 9/11 and of the soldiers killed in the ensuing war? I can’t find a sense of ethics and moral duty in that statement and for that reason cannot relate to that being the justification for such a strong and questionable message being put forth by those “celebrations”. In 1860 plantation owners in the American South owned slaves because they “could”. Which of course begs the question….Just because they could, did that make it right? It’s not what one CAN do, but what one OUGHT to do that makes a person honorable. Protest and celebration is one thing. Thoughtless proliferation of one's agenda is another.

    May 21, 2011 at 3:30 am |
  9. shahgul

    Trash from all countries behaves the same. Palestinian trash celebrated 911 (and we were quick to condemn) and American trash celebrated the killing of Osama. It is a small world.

    May 21, 2011 at 2:09 am |
  10. Dave

    Sister: I'm about your age and I don't know who "they" are who have been telling you that there's nothing worse celebrating, or where you got the idea that our generation has had such a hard time, but it sounds like you've listened to hypocrites and trouble makers. Tap into some energy, donate some kindness to the world, and it will be repaid.

    May 20, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
  11. Mike

    My son belongs to your generation and he would never say he's had it bad for the last ten years. He helped pay for his college tuition by joining ROTC, and is now a 2d Lt in the USAF having graduated in aerospace engineering. I have no problem with folks celebrating the death of a terrorist. But speak for yourself. You should have written, "And when 'I' graduate from college, 'I' will emerge overeducated and underprepared into an America with no jobs, no opportunities and no hope." Here's a suggestion, join one of the military branches and serve your country as my son did and is doing.

    May 20, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  12. JT

    I'm not gonna tell you how you should feel or what was the proper reaction to OBL's death but I am gonna tell you that
    anyone who's been a teenager felt that their generation had it bad. Maybe is a phase everyone goes through but here's something to think about : previous generations didn't have a cell phone, electricity, penicillin or even an awareness about people outside their village. So cheer up! If you plot your hardships against a timeline, you'd see that those that really matter are universal and timeless. Those that don't usually aren't around by the time you're 30.

    May 20, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  13. James

    Halarious article, how did this get published on CNN? While I may totally be sterotyping and have it all wrong, this reads like the thoughts of a sheltered and priviliged kid who has no idea about life in the real world. Our generation has had it bad? Have you ever read a history book? The fact that you are the upscale school you are in is evidence enough that you have not had it pretty bad. I've traveled the world from S. America, Africa and SE Asia and I've seen people that have had it pretty bad. Words can't describe how irritating this article was.

    May 20, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  14. Jamie

    Well Said

    Damn right I celebrated when Bin Laden died, just like he did when 3000+ American’s were killed on 9/11. I may no apologies for it nor should anyone else!

    I could give to craps less what anyone thinks about it either… GOD BLESS THE USA !!! BEST CONTRY IN THE WORLD OT LIVE IN ! (Despite our many problems…)

    You don’t agree? Then get out !

    Nuff Said…

    May 20, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  15. Dan

    Miss. Kolodkin you've got to be kidding me. Your generation has it pretty bad? You are in college, so I suggest that you go read some books on what previous generations have had to deal with. ANd Oh yah – they were around for 9/11 too, and the recession.
    You're in school - a VERY expensive one at that– So i'm guessing that you have not had to put food on the table after losing your job. You just went to the dining hall. Real tough for ya there. How about the great depression, WW2? Korea? Vietnam?
    While I understand what you're getting at, spare me the pity party for "Your Generation". I'm part of your generation, and we've got it pretty good.

    May 20, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Mike

      Dan, you wrote very articulately what I was trying to compose earlier. You expressed very elegantly what I was feeling and thinking and fortunately I read your comment before I attempted to respond.

      May 20, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  16. damianjr

    Why is this child writing articles for the news? It may be well written, but why is it here for me to read. I would like to know how SHE has been impacted directly. I am a veteran of the wars created by the events of that day. My childhood wasn't taken, I volunteered for my country when she needed me. As far as overeducated and underprepared, how would she know. She has never lived in the world. Her (my) generation has never had anything to cheer for? Really? She speaks of cursing bin laden from her DORM ROOM, I cursed him from the battlefields of Yussafia and Kandahar. From the putrid hell of Bagdad and Tora Bora. I am proud the we are past his influence and glad he is dead, don't get me wrong. But why is this child the one writing about not apologizing for the way she feels when she has no idea. I love this country and to hear this child say there is no hope here is unreal to me. Who's decision was it to publish this? Great Job CNN

    May 20, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Kenneth

      The youth of this country have always been the ones to generate change and reform and their voice should never be discouraged or discounted regardless of their point. I thank you for your service but you can keep your false sense of superiority.

      May 20, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  17. Jameson

    Our generation has had it pretty bad? Are you seriouis? I was in the 7th grade when the trade towers were attacked, and though this is by all measurements a horrible occurence in our lives...to say our generation has had it rough is quite false. Compared to the countless generations before us, we have it easy. Sounds like a pity party article.

    May 20, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  18. GC

    Wow... Justifying the celebration of a government sanctioned assassination by saying "9/11 was scary to my generation"...

    Got it. Being 9 when the towers fell somehow removes any obligation to critical thought, self-awareness, or common human decency. Ok.

    Here's a tip... when governments murder – we should always question first, and hold the celebrations – no mater how "evil" we are told the target is. You don't need to be of a specific generation to understand that. Empathy has no generation gap, nor does the questioning of authority(despite the pop suggestions to the contrary).

    May 20, 2011 at 3:23 am |
    • ruckuz

      I'm from NYC and lived here practically all my life. I was in college in Buffalo when I heard the news. Although, I don't know anyone that lost their lives that day, but I felt the sorrow as a fellow New Yorker.

      Bin Laden is a murderer and his leadership has cause heartache not just on 9/11, but as well as various other bombings prior to 9/11. These are facts and there is no consipracy on 9/11. Bin Laden ordered 9/11, if 9/11 is a conspirac then where's the smoking gun? We are in a free society and 9/11 would be a HUGE conspiracy w/ many people involve. You telling me that nont one person involve in 9/11 will come forward w/ evidence?

      Bin Laden's followeres rejoiced during 9/11. Why should we not?

      May 20, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • GC

      I never said a word about a conspiracy, nor did I imply anything about Bin Laden. I made no commentary or claim on the facts of 9/11 whatsoever.

      We live in a country based on the rule of law. We have a perfectly viable system for accusing and punishing criminals – even international criminals. Last time I checked, that system did not include assassination. Perhaps I missed that part of our legal code.

      We preach the moral high-ground to the rest of the world, but so rarely practice it.

      Outrage should always be questioned. Righteous outrage is exactly what got us into this mess.

      May 20, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Knucklehead

      Ruckuz: We should not for one reason: we are better than them.

      May 20, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  19. LL

    Unfortunately, Miss Kolodkin and her "generation" clearly demonstrates the lack of depth in the complex political histories between allied and enemy nations that have stretched much longer than her 10 years of observation. Terrorism did not begin on 9/11/2001. The nation's increasing debt and lack of job opportunity did not spawn from the mind of Osama Bin Ladin. Kolodkin, and her fellow peers who are cheering on the streets of what they think is a victory to a better world should take a more critical look at their own country's political history (i.e. who the US have been economically funding publicly AND privately) and the unstoppable influential power of corporate interests and the US Military Industrial Complex.

    My fellow Americans, if you love your country, pay close attention:
    For decades, our political leaders (and it's really not a Democrat or Republican thing anymore), those who are in power, and those who are the wealthiest have continued investing in their own self interest (greed), NOT for the well-being of their countrymen. Young men and women die in the name of "freedom;" but those who are truly reaping the rewards of this enigmatic idea of freedom are the shareholders of military corporations. Millionaires become billionaires. Soldiers get a shiny purple heart medal, come home in a casket, or live the rest of their lives suffering from a vast range of mental distress.

    America: We have the best and shiniest weapons of war... But the majority of our people have been dumbed down, consciously submissive, and our perception of what matters most in the whole world comes down to voting for our favorite singing idols or finding out who the bachelor will pick.

    This is the sad trend America has become, and if people stop caring about their country, it will only get worse and more people will have a more shallow knowledge of the world around them.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • Chandra Dailey

      Well said.

      May 20, 2011 at 6:29 am |
    • Knucklehead

      You nailed it. Tell me, do you know how things are in New Zealand?

      May 20, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  20. haljalikakik

    Excellent article and very well said!

    As for all of the pompous blowhards that feel their reaction to OBL's death was the only proper one, you're not above anyone – just a sad, self-absorbed elitist – Just like the hippy that is supposedly all about peace and love until you disagree with just one of their beliefs and then you suck. No one's being critical of you until you attack so keep it to yourself, hypocrites.

    May 19, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • Dave

      Sadly your response has no substance. Maybe in your small corner of the world people turned their noses up at you, but your experience is not everyones. Interestingly enough you call those that think the celebrations were inappropriate "hypocrites" but I would take a wild guess that you thought ill of those in other countries that celebrated when the towers fell. I doubt that anyone that said our celebrations were inappropriate celebrated that day either. The only hypocrite here is you. Sad and self-absorbed... you seem to be well acquainted with those concepts.

      The celebrations were petty. Many things in life are. Many other petty things in life aren't fuel for terrorist recruiters.

      Have a more coherent point.... or as you said.... keep it to yourself.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
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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.