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. Thomas

    "For the past 10 years, my generation has had it pretty bad." How utterly ridiculous. This "pretty bad" upbringing you speak of undoubtedly consisted of a house with electricity, clean water, a warm bed, and more than enough food to gorge yourself with. Some people in the world actually has it "pretty bad." You complaining is an insult to billions of human being on planet Earth. Some people actually have real problems. Stop whining about your laughable "pretty bad" time you've had over these past 10 years. You want to rejoice in another persons death for the sake of the victims of 9/11, that's one thing. But leave your out-of-touch, distorted views on suffering out of this.

    May 23, 2011 at 7:25 am |
  2. nisroc

    I understand where both sides come from on this, my question is how many who celebrated would in ten years from now looks back and say, "Why did we do that?" or "We looked like fools!"

    Bin Laden did make a wrong choice and gained a lot of hate from Americans and those from other nationalities but despite differences beliefs, religion, nationality, customs Bin Laden was just a human fighting for what he believed in. Americans fight for what they believe in?

    Arabic Nations cheered when the WTC fell, To me seeing Americans cheering the death of Bin laden is no different. What bothers me was this cheering done for payback or revenge, was it done to lower yourselves to their level or was it done because your buddy who is immature and disrespectful thought it would be fun?

    Whats done is done. what they do, we do and that is destroy ourselves because we want to be the alpha in Nationality, Religion, race....

    May 23, 2011 at 5:43 am |
  3. Rob

    Go Lauren!

    May 23, 2011 at 1:25 am |
  4. NO Comment

    I remember after 9/11 seeing some persons in Middle East celebrating it and i felt disgusted.
    I remember after Osama Bin Laden´s death seeing some persons in USA celebrating it and i felt disgusted.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • K

      Get over being disgusted about the USA....USA killed a leader and a few armed soldiers in the compound, but this guy killed thousands of INNOCENT people who some may have fought with a child the night before and that is one of the last memories they will have with that parent, many men and omen after the attacks happened went out to attempt to save someone elses life lost thiers... When the middle east celebrated, what did they celebrate? A terrorist being apprehended and brought to justice? No they celebrated radicals hijacking three planes and killed thousands of people. USA had a RIGHT to celebrate... middle east, did not have a right.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:23 am |
    • Crocker

      Same here. Only difference was these kids weren't firing AK's into the air or burning the US Flag.

      May 23, 2011 at 5:06 am |
  5. Crybaby

    Stop whining! You say that your generation has had their youth taken away, but it doesn't sound like it made you grow up any. Don't you have a livejournal you can post this trash on instead of here?

    May 22, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
  6. Joe Canada

    That what america does best, revel in others misery. Americans never got the message on 9/11, so history will repeat itself.

    Even their national anthem is about war. A barbaric bunch if you really look at them.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • J. Murphy

      Nice Joe, you got us. The ever so original anonymous ripping of America from a Canadian. We are just a bunch of barbarians yet I'm sure your opinion of Osama Bin Laden is no so negative. Don't spew cowardly conjecture. And mocking our anthem which is hardly a barbaric song is just pathetic. But, you people will convince yourselves of anything just to hate America. I'm sure you celebrated 9/11.

      I'd say what America does best is innovate- like going to the moon. Canada ever do that? Of course not.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
    • Another Canadian

      So in response to the annonymous rip of america, you give the oh so common , uninformed, annonymous rip of Canada.JOe Canada is an idiot and makes us all look bad...dont put us all in the same boat.
      What has canada ever innovated? how about the telephone, insulin (and gave it to the world for free) drafted the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights...for starters. btw..not to take anything away from the accomplishment, but America and Russia went to space and the moon on technology Innovated by the Germans and captured after WWII

      May 23, 2011 at 2:51 am |
  7. Lynne

    Your generation hasn't had it any rougher than any other generation in the past or the future. Bad things and good things happen all the time.

    Osama bin-Laden was an avowed enemy of the United States and the American people. When he died he was planning more attacks that would have killed more American people. Although it was before my time, I've seen pictures of the celebrations in Time Square after the victories in Europe and the Pacific at the end of World War 2. Nobody criticizes them then and they don't now.

    So what's the difference? The killing of bin-Laden represented a victory in the country's war against terrorism.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Elena

      The difference is that there they were celebrating the end of an entire WAR that had wrought havoc on practically the entire WORLD. People were celebrating troops coming home, food no longer being rationed, and the dawn of a new era where DEMOCRACY had prevailed over FASCISM and TYRANNY. I can't believe that you are asking what the difference is. Here we are celebrating the death of one man while there are still troops engaged in battle. Here we are waving American flags in one had with a beer in another as if we were walking out of a frat party. It's embarrassing, out of place and immature. We used to be better than this. If you want to celebrate send a letter to the troops telling them thank you and a letter to Obama telling him to end the war and bring home all our troops NOW.
      That would be cause for celebration.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:01 am |
  8. mouser

    9/11 "stole our youth"?

    Spare me the hyperbolic, woe-is-me rhetoric. I was also in elementary school when the planes hit the towers and my life did not turn into the overwrought Dickens novel that you describe. I agree that the effects of 9/11 will be felt for years to come, but I think that the majority of those repercussions are a result of failed policy and poor decision-making and leadership, not the act itself.

    The celebrating is tacky and I think it does damage to our image abroad, as well as aggravates the anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiments at home. He was a terrible man, but his death does not mean that terrorism is over. His death merely represents the death of an awful man. Why should we even give him the dignity of a celebration?

    May 22, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  9. JThomas2121

    The opening of this article was a joke, right? Your generation has had it tough? Oh, wow, how much you have to learn. Sure, you had 9/11 to deal with and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but other generations before you had the Cold War, threat of nuclear and atomic wars, Vietnam, Korean War, and World War II, just to name the conflicts. The generations before you had to deal with recessions and gas shortages. Your generation has been spoiled rotten with technology, video games, texting and cell phones, parents whose homes gained incredible values and so much more. Most of your generation doesn't have much of a clue what true struggle is all about. The Civil Rights movement was far more intense, divisive, and bloody than anything you've had to endure.

    Please, Ms. Kolodkin, get a clue before you take your naive and ignorant comments to CNN and its airwaves. You wouldn't apologize for celebrating someone's death because that's all your generation cares about anymore ... an excuse to party. No one's death should be cause to party and celebrate in the streets. This is war and 'your' generation watches war like a video game. Yes, America took out bin Laden and it will go down as a major victory in the war on terror, but you become no greater than that which you are fighting when you start acting like them.

    It's just a shame 'your' generation doesn't have a clue.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • doublebroseven

      While I agree to most of your statement, I do see that not everyone in this generation is in the same boat as the author. I see the best of this generation day in and day out, and I'm privileged, honored and humbled to lead them. I would stack them up with "the greatest generation" as it's been said about World War II. Please don't lump the entire generation into one less than stellar statement.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  10. Camille

    This is terrible. Two wrong do not make a right. You guys are happy that America took a mans life? I know he killed x amount of people, that gives you no right to have a party b/c someone is dead. What ever happened to jail?

    May 22, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • doublebroseven

      The world is better without bin laden.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
    • Jon


      2,974 on 11Sept2001 in NY, PA, DC
      17 on 12OCT2000 in Yemen
      233 on 7Aug1998 Nairobi and Dar es Salaam

      Just to list a few major numbers. There's no jail sentence for that Camille

      May 23, 2011 at 12:19 am |
  11. tim

    im Very gay and i believe I have no rights as an individual I am gay in times good and in times bad.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • doublebroseven

      Tim, please don't misconstrue persecution as a lack of rights.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
  12. troy saber

    what the delta force did was invoke physics. if you remove a major post from a building it is weakened but it is still there. at some point if you remove enough support posts the building will crash down. there will always be issues. when one falls a nother will show up. but a major post has been removed, physics and history tell us the building will come down. do you honestly belive that the world shed a tear when hittler or older terror figures died? did you cry when sadam was hung?maybe a small percentage did but thats just who they are. but if you need to cry for the loss of this dictator dont worry there will be a nother one along any time now whos presance and terror your can enjoy again.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • doublebroseven

      uh, it was devgru, brah...

      May 22, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
  13. Just Say No to Wasps

    Our only option is to kill right? Kill everything that wants to kill us, then we will be free.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • doublebroseven

      If you want peace, you must prepare for war.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
  14. efran jenas

    So? – we all grow up under BS. I grew up next a naval air base during the Cold War, which was supposedly target by Russia. Sooner or later I realised one monkey dosen't stop the show. Nor will Bin Laden's death make a difference in society. The real problem we are are facing today is centuries of racial, religious, cultural, and political intolerance, ingrained in so many people that no nation can escape. Our only hope is to defect from all religion and accept everyone as a humanbeing.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  15. RonD

    Yes, we've fought two ruinously expensive wars since 9/11, but they were of our choosing, not Bin Ladin's. Indeed, remember that President Bush, who sent us into Iraq, said it has *nothing* to do with 9/11. We invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein was supposed to be preparing to attack us with WMD. We now know that was completely wrong.

    What has the war in Afghanistan accomplished? Who knows. All we know is its terrible cost.

    The only winner here is Bin Ladin and Al Quaeda. Bin Ladin said he wanted to grievously wound the USA financially.

    He accomplished that.

    What did we win? Everyone who died on 9/11 has been joined by all of those who died in Afghanistan since. Not one of them is coming home.

    Are we safer now? Then why do I still take my shoes off t o get through US Airport security?

    May 22, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • Just Say No to Wasps

      Our choosing? You mean the Republican's choosing. I never chose war. War is wrong. I don't support the troops.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • doublebroseven

      It's military (like me), that allow you to say that.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • Just an opinion

      Just Say No To Wasps, while we did have a Republican president, you can't claim that it was strictly Repub. House was narrowly controlled by GOP, while Dems controlled the Senate. The Resolution was passed 297-133 (3 no votes) in the House and 77-23 in the Senate. MANY Dems approved it as well. While some may have gone back later and regretted it, many passed it.

      May 23, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  16. Makos62

    I agree that 9/11 changed us forever. It has brought fear into our life's, has taken away many freedom's we had long ago taken for granted, and brought government peering into our everyday affairs. I was glad to hear Bin Laden was finally taken down, and was left wondering why it took so long. But I also am a realist, and see that to gloat over his death in a Macy's Day Parade atmosphere only makes us here in the U.S. seem like we are imperialist. That is not true, and not the face we wish to show the world.
    Most every nation on this planet today owes some sort of debt to the U.S., either literally, or just through out relief. We here take better care of the world's poor then we do our own.
    To see the respect we once earned become so diluted through thoughtless actions, is a slap in the face to every individual who volunteered to defend this country.
    I speak as a Vet, who is a son of a Vet, who had either a Father, Uncle or Brother serve in every war in the last century.
    Celebrate the demise of Bin Laden by not parading around due to his death, but by working to now restore the freedoms taken away by his actions.

    May 22, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Suzy Liz

      Very well put by someone who has already earned a lot of respect for his patriotism.

      May 22, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • Elena

      You should run for office. Thank you for your wisdom and for your generous service to this country.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:47 am |
  17. QuietAndSlow

    I grew up in the Cold War within 15 miles of three high-priority targets. We didn’t have any illusions about our chances of survival if the Cold War ever went hot. I was a college student when the Berlin Wall came down. I think I understand how you felt when you got the news about Bin Laden. I still do not agree. I remember how angry I was in September of 2001 watching the celebrations in the Arab streets. Ten years later it’s the Americans celebrating; are the Arabs just as angry as I was? No good will come of it.

    May 22, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • Suzy Liz

      I concur.

      May 22, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  18. SUP

    I am only 12 now....my older brother would be almost 18 except he got killed in the Twin Towers attack. His best friend and him were near the Twin Towers. His best friend escaped and has been changed for life.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Suzy Liz

      Heartbreaking personal account. Thank you for sharing it!

      May 22, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  19. Roberto

    Oh yes, your generation had it bad. Much worse than throughout history! Plague, pestilence and war can't hold a candle to being overeducated in a bad job market. I am sure that all of the kids working in sweatshops in China, or people caught in tractor trailers trying to sneak into the US and everyone else without dependable access to food, clear water and shelter, that you, Lauren Kolodkin and your generation, have it pretty darn bad!

    May 22, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  20. med

    Do you think that killing a person is a solution to eradicate terror in the world?no way.you do celebrate Ben Laden's death today but you don't know what will happen tomorrow.maybe many Ben Ladens will emerge.The only solution to my mind is to give way to dialogue with those islamists all in a very objective way without thinking for a while that we,the Americans are the exception in the world because those islamists are also human beings

    May 22, 2011 at 7:57 am |
    • tim

      dialogue.... that is the same thinking that president Obama has.... that if only we can find the perfect set or combination of words that we can talk these peolpe out of hating us so much. I am not that optimistic, these people hate us because of who we are. we are free, they are religious zelots, their is no talking them out of there beliefs, they see us.. our political freedom, religious freedom, they way we treat our women (as equal citizens), our belief in the rule of law, and they don't like it.... Bin Laden didn't. the radical islamist extremist I'm talking about.. they want to control people, they want to back a 1000 years when islam was the center of technology and human though. so no dialogue is going change these people. we need to continue to be strong and no give in to these people. maybe to the people who are not this extreme we can give in. How about recognizing isreal's right to exist for starters

      May 22, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • doublebroseven

      There are some people in this world who only understand one thing- violence. In this instance, the only way to communicate to them that their way of life is unacceptable and puts others into danger is to eliminate them from the equation. Try talking to a terrorist- I'm sure it will work out for you. Personally, I don't hate them, but I understand that sometimes the only way to save a life is to take a life. I take no joy in the negative portion of my chosen profession, however I will do my job to protect my family, the lives of my Marines, and the people of this country.

      May 22, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • yup

      @tim the united states was not attacked for our "freedom", many other countries in the world have more technology and freedom than the united states and they have not been attacked. the reason the united states is hated is because of the sanctions we unfairly and dangerously placed on countries in the middle east in the 90s and for our support of Israel and lack of concern for Palestinian rights

      May 23, 2011 at 9:04 am |
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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.