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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. gutsycall

    We spent $3 trilliion dollars and fought two wars, possibly a third coming with Iran over this satanic stain on the human condition. Yes, definitely time to celebrate. We did so after WWII seeing Hitler killed off and that was a great dayf or America too.

    May 24, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    I am a part of "your" generation, yet I possess the dignity and respect to restrain my own emotions over the death of Osama Bin Laden. Perhaps it's due to the fact that my husband, along with multiple family members and dear friends, have been sacrificing their time, energies, and sometime lives by serving in the military that brought him to justice. In your sheltered college existence, it's understandable that you might be naive to the second and third hand effects that Bin Ladens death might bring. But, since you so eloquently decided to mount your high horse and make a martyr of your priviledged existence, I thought it might be appropriate to remind you that your celebrations have made an impact. The anti-American extremists and Al Queda now have additional media footage to use as propaganda of the evil Americans that celebrate the death of their leader. Soldiers stationed in Afghanistan that have been working to win local leaders peacefully over now have to answer to them for your behavior. And there will be American lives lost at the expense of your "celebration" over justice for the catastrophic events that you have only had to witness from your television. So go on, congratulate yourself again for being an American and defeating the enemy. But you ought to consider thinking outside of your very small world, past your "life of tragedy", and remember that being an American doesn't grant you the right to idiocy based on your privileged existence.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • Shane

      Anonymous,

      As an Iraq vet and college grad I say to you – please go away you dirty, weak pathetic tree-hugger. It's "peace-to-all" hippies like yourself that require combat vets like myself to do what no one else wants to do. Osama is dead – celebrate! Oh, and great article by the way.

      May 24, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • David

      Do you dare insinuate that nobody in the military celebrated the death of Bin Laden? If so, then I would say that it is you that is naive. A former member of the US Armed Forces myself, I can guarantee you that many in the Armed Forces AND their families celebrated the end to a cold-blooded killer that brought so much pain to our military families, through multiple lengthy separations due to deployments to that foresaken war zone. Don't pretend your more just because YOU decided not to celebrate. The rat that brought this plague on us is dead and we should all rejoice!

      May 24, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Camille

      You put it perfectly!!! Thank you!

      May 24, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  3. Steven Brown

    It's ok to sing Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  4. Kyser

    I hate when people say they have no hope.....so if you have no hope why do you keep trying? Just give up because apparently if you have no hope then you've already failed, and that dead man has already won. I was in my junior year of highschool when September 11th happened, and my senior year was marked with the Iraq war......yet I still have hope even after fighting in Iraq, why don't you?

    May 24, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  5. USA

    Sheesh! You think you have it that bad! What ever happened to the American Spirit. Make something happen for yourself, and don't look to government or what others can do for you!

    May 24, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • Nate1982

      The American spirit? It's been dying with Kenedy's assasination. We've hardly had government representation since. It was stabbed in the back with watergate. It was shot in the face when Bush Jr. became President without our votes... twice. Our spirit slowly died with our brothers and sisters in this cancerous war. You say don't look to Government... then why vote? Most American's share your concept, and it's sad. Because if we can't count on each other to get involved then real issues are replaced with tv entertainment and cell phones. Don't look to others? United we stand is more than a slogan... it used to be a reality. We are founded on dying principles. Our Government is designed for us, by us, and everything wonderful and heroic our country and countrymen has accomplished throughout history is all in vein if we can't count on our neighbors to make educated decisions in the form of a vote, and if we can't count on our Government to represent our wishes wholeheartedly. Politically, we have never had it this worse.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  6. Grimaldas

    Miss Kolodkin,
    You do not have it as bad as you might believe. Personally, I have lived abroad for many years now, and finally returned to my country of origin. You must believe me when I say; you have it pretty dang good.

    I have lived/worked in countries that keep its citizens oppressed. I have walked down streets where folks live, work, socialize and there among the refuse of trash scattered about are dead bodies over- looked, like cordwood in the forest. And in many cases, where I’ve been, the simple pleasure of you being able to voice your un-informed opinion would have resulted in some very serious trouble for you on the order of imprisonment, or worse.

    While I understand your point of view, it is mis-guided by your own shortsightedness. If you are indeed in collage, please do some research before trying to whip a froth on a deep; sometimes dark subject.

    -Grimaldas

    May 24, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • Xtremcyber

      And your point is?

      May 24, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • Nate1982

      You call her mis guided, but you are mis guided. She was not talking about other countries she was talking about America. People seem to forget the problems that we have here. I am a veteran of the war on terrorism and Iraqi freedom and I know better than most that it is worse in other countries, and that Americans should be thankful for our standard of living. But you must remember, that is not a reason to placate or otherwise ignore the REAL issues that we do have here in our own country. Ignoring problems makes them worse.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • Rich

      She is right. Study abroad, go travel, get out and see the world. When you do you will appreciate all that we have here in the US way more. Living in the US your whole life will only cloud your mind of what is really going on out there. You really think the media is telling us how it happens, or what they want us to hear. Most people I know will live in the same community there whole lives. Before I started traveling my opinion was like the majority here. Spending time outside the US changed my WHOLE view on life and what people here in the US take for granted every day.

      May 24, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  7. Hunter Camp

    Without an agreement on a starting point for a discussion of ethics, conversations like this are slippery. As a Christian pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), I locate myself with those who see that justice, in some sense of the word, has been served. And yet, the act of reveling in the joy of vengenace is exactly where Christians go wrong.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:38 am |
    • Grimaldas

      @ Hunter Camp;

      Well stated friend.

      -Grimaldas

      May 24, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • Xtremcyber

      So what, tell that to a 9/11 family that lost love ones in the attacks or of the soldiers fighting overseas so you can wake up every morning and have your breakfast ready and go wherever you wanna go.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Nate1982

      Bin laden provided an imbalance in the world... a horrible evil that cannot be fathomed by peacible people. and the forces of nature answered that imbalance. If you are of the belief that everything happens for a reason and balance in the world just occurs naturally or by the will of god then there should be no doubt that if you are evil and destroy good then naturally good will destroy evil. Just as in the animal kingdom if too many rabbits eat too many plants their population grows too big for the plants to support and the lynx brings balance by enjoying a buffet of bunnies until the plants can grow back and the whole cycle can start over. The universe depends heavily on balance. Even in math, the universal language, balance is the goal. The world is a place full of boundries, and there will always be blood where there are boundries, and there is no place without boundries even ethical ones. But there is no fault in celebrating balance, only in articulating it as vengence as Christians sometimes do. No disrespect to you, sir.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • iamacamera1

      I am in exactly the place as you on this issue. When I heard that OBL had been killed my initial reaction was, "YES". Then I began thinking; is that really the right response? While I will lose no sleep over his death, and have no sympathy for him, or any of his confederates, I am disturbed that I was joyous over his death. I do think that the best thing would have been just to dump the body overboard with no ceremony of any kind and let God sort it out. As a Christian I am troubled by the visceral hatred expressed toward another human being. Not that it shouldn't have been done, there are some people that are just so mean that there's only one way to deal with them, but that it should not have brought me joy to see that it had been done.

      May 24, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  8. starshine

    never always.. like a record baby

    May 24, 2011 at 6:54 am |
  9. Jim

    I have lived and worked in a small West African community since July 2009 and was a freshman in high-school when 9-11 happened. I can tell you that living abroad and seeing this all take place has been quite an eye opening experience. I was glad to hear that justice was served and that a huge blow was given to terrorism. It showed the world that terrorism cannot be tolerated. However, I can say that in the eyes of my community, our Sunday night celebration did not reflect well on our country at all. It perpetuated the stereotype that Americans are loud, pompous, egotistical people; and that is not who we are. Sometimes it's just that the cameras are rolling when some people who fit this stereotype come forth. Friends of mine in my community, Christians and Muslims alike, agreed that seeing these celebrations was the war equivalent of dancing in the end-zone after a touchdown (Illegal in the NCAA). It was just bad form. Of course they understand that we should be happy after something like this, they were too. He was a bad man and few would dispute that. However, if we had been humbly happy and reflective that Osama bin Laden was dead, I think it would have sent a far more profound message to the world; that we are above the people who danced in the streets burning American flags when the towers fell on 9-11. There is not one approach that will fix terrorism, and bombs absolutely still need to be dropped, but until the people of these countries understand who Americans are and that stereotypes do not paint a picture of our country as a whole, terrorists will continue to pop up who hate us because all they know of us is a country that drops bombs and invades their country. Maybe instead of dropping $250,000 to blow up a $2000 toyota pickup, we could spend that money on a school to educate the children of Afghanistan and make sure they knew who built it. Kill one man or educate 200?

    May 24, 2011 at 4:49 am |
    • oleg

      gotta do both

      May 24, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • Stephen

      "It perpetuated the stereotype that Americans are loud, pompous, egotistical people; and that is not who we are."

      That is who we are, and we are proud of it! I will NEVER be ashamed or quiet of where I am from. I believe the song "I'm Proud to be an American" by Lee Greenwood comes to mind here.

      "However, if we had been humbly happy and reflective that Osama bin Laden was dead, I think it would have sent a far more profound message to the world; that we are above the people who danced in the streets burning American flags when the towers fell on 9-11."

      I'm sorry, but if we hadn't of celebrated, people around the world would be asking us why we have started two wars and not celebrated any victories. It would have given them ammunition to say that we are just mindless war mongerers. We needed to celebrate. It showed the world that despite ten years of humilitation on an international level, we are still proud of our country and you can't take our pride away.

      "Maybe instead of dropping $250,000 to blow up a $2000 toyota pickup, we could spend that money on a school to educate the children of Afghanistan and make sure they knew who built it. Kill one man or educate 200?"

      Because they don't care what money we give them, or where they get it from. We support Israel and they oppose us on a fundamental, ideological level. Neither of those points can be discussed with radicals. They disagree with the entire premise of our country. Think about it, OBL declared war on us because we didn't let him help with Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Radical Muslims like him will always find a reason to hate us and you can't buy them off (we saved Saudi Arabia from a possible takeover by Iraq, and he still hated us). We give more money to other countries and help other countries in their natural disasters more than anyone else, and our "image" doesn't improve. The world at some point needs to see that. How will they? I don't know. Maybe take Ron Paul's approach of not giving any money away for a few years, endure the years of "selfish America", and wait until they are begging us for help? (I think that man is a lunatic, but the example does make a degree of sense here).

      May 24, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  10. Dustin

    Then I see nothing wrong with muslims celebrating the death's of US citizens. Ignorant fat race of people. I can't wait til our stupidity takes us off our high horse.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:27 am |
    • Vikes2323

      I think you need a friend

      May 24, 2011 at 4:22 am |
    • Really?

      Yea...guess so. I guess the world is filled with hypocrites. I wonder why this isnt news to u?

      May 24, 2011 at 4:24 am |
    • Shannon

      You're lumping a heck of a lot of people into your rant there Dustin- "Then I see nothing wrong with muslims celebrating the death's of US citizens. Ignorant fat race of people. I can't wait til our stupidity takes us off our high horse." In fact, to someone who's first experience with is you is via the faceless internet, one might find you to be as bigoted and stupid as those you criticize, and blind to those (All U.S. citizens) you unfairly make judgement on.
      To the rest of you making criticism, this is an opinion article. The writer of which was simply explaining that, while she and others celebrated not because a man was killed, but because a man who struck terror on who knows how many INNOCENT people (People who may never have even heard of OBL prior to the many attacks he made around the world) to make a political point and fuel hatred is finally gone. While I didn't take to the streets waving our flag, I have to say that even I felt a rush of relief on hearing that OBL is gone.
      Did I feel bad for his family? Yes. WIll there be other terrorists to take his place? Yes. Should we make crude statements of ridicule to those who handled things differently than those of us who were quietly elated at the weight that was lifted off of our chests when the announcement that a man full of hatred and spite for anyone who didn't believe as he did was finally gone? In my opinion, no. It makes us no better and it serves no purpose other than to further divide a country already seemingly well divided.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  11. ACS

    When a "terrorist" kills those they call an "enemy" they too celebrate. Where is the difference between you and them? Killing may be necessary, but the separation between you and your enemy is small. Take every opportunity to increase that distance. Other wise your righteousness and your judgement will be small. To me you are a terrorist. A crowed of people celebrating the death of anyone creates terror in my mind.

    I am part of your generation and you do not speak for me. The next time you decide to share your opinion speak for yourself and don't rationalize any entire generations behavior.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Jeremy

      Well she speaks to me. A retaliation, in an act of war, is not terrorism. Piloting planes into buildings killing thousands of people, that's terrorism. We have more than enough "separation" than what distinguishes us from terrorism. Sorry you're not patriotic and don't seek justice.

      May 24, 2011 at 2:26 am |
    • Vikes2323

      If you didn't cheer when you heard the news your un-American... simple as that your freedom really comes at the greatest cost. History has proven this time and time again and this was our victory over injustice

      May 24, 2011 at 4:19 am |
    • avi

      jeremy – its not about patriotism, it is about justice. If you telling peace can only come through war, You are no different from the enemy you call as terrorist. If you think revenge is right , think of why thy attacked on 9/11.Do you think past has nothing to do with america on them (terrorists). Your past will reflect your present and future. Your mistakes are your enemy. If we doesn't change ourself ,how do we expect others to change for us. Do not blame others for what we did. Don't you know how the americans treated muslims after the attack of 9/11on american soil & the rest of the world too .
      Are you saying all the muslims have to pay for this. Are you encouraging it? This is what discriminating your own countrymen and you are a terrorist.

      May 24, 2011 at 5:17 am |
  12. Paul

    I'm afraid "Orwell," above, is right. We don't really have the same kind of singular enemy here as a Hitler, or a sovereign country. Bin Laden has been effectively sold to us a figure to whom we could direct our anger and fear (from that moment you first saw his face on screen after the 9/11 tragedy), almost just to set up this moment of glory. Even as an Obama supporter, I cringed whenever he promised to "hunt down and kill Osama Bin Laden" in his campaign.

    The real problem is behind millions of faces of anger and resentment towards our country, some of them ripe to be recruited by extremists. And not all because they "hate freedom," as George W. liked to say. To live in a more hopeful world, Lauren, can the solution really be to kill off every last terrorist, or might it require looking at the root sources of violent discontentment on our globe?

    May 23, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Slar Mas

      Paul,

      The solution is to kill of every single one of them. The solution is to make bombs as fast as we can drop them and obliterate them (known terrorists and bad actors, not eluding to genocide or anything else here). Why is what you probably don't get. Why is not because there are problems in the world, that is an excuse. Why is because rabid dogs are not as inhuman and as twisted as these men. Why is because they are the definition of evil. Why is because that evil is backed up by a religious fervor that won't be changed by your humble attempt to find the solution to the problem. The problem is they want to destroy us. The solution is to as efficiently and effectively as possible destroy them first, no remorse, no regret, no hesitation. The type of evil here is obviously beyond your comprehension. I suggest you replay the video's of the men who had their heads cut of while they were still alive, the planes flying into buildings, and know that if you express your view in my presence you will find yourself quickly on the floor because you disrespect everyone who died, everyone who has fallen in this war. You sicken me.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  13. Carroll Ray

    Well done Lauren. It's sad that you even had to explain yourself. I'm so sick of those who claim morale superiority because they do not celebrate the death of another. It must be nice to live in an ivory tower and debate philosophy, pacifism, peace, love and understanding. But this is the real world we live in. And yes, life IS sacred. The lives of the many thousands of people Bin Laden killed were sacred. The thousands of lives that have been saved by his death are sacred. The world is a safer place without OBL.

    May 23, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  14. Mr. Collodi

    Point well taken, but i'm sure I speak for more than just my self when I say I celebrated a new dawn without Bin Laden, and the fact that seal team six busted in his door, shot his brother, shot one of his wifes, his courier and the big finale being a 5.56mm round to the dome. Needless to say i had goosebumps watching the news.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Mr. Collodi

      wives*

      May 23, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  15. OmahaStylee

    Lauren,
    You are a retard. I really can't validate another key stroke...

    May 23, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Brooke

      You can make your point without using the word "retard." http://www.r-word.org/r-word-not-acceptable-psa.aspx. Using words that demean others makes you look more inarticulate and ridiculous as the people you are trying to criticize. Spread the Word! http://www.r-word.org/

      May 24, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Brooke

      I meant *than the people you are trying to criticize, not as. Sorry.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  16. Mayan Secrets Keeper

    I wonder if all of those who were eager to criticize Lauren's point of view read her essay prior to making their criticism... On my part, I'll say point well takein, and I totally agree with her... it was not the celebrations of somebody being dead; rather, it was the celebration of not fearing that person anymore and one importantt battle against terrorism won.. is that hard to understand?

    May 23, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  17. TheId

    Gen X saves the day again!!!!

    May 23, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • Guntown Johnny

      Again? This girl is probably categorized as Gen Y. Gen X - where did you go?

      May 23, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  18. Orwell

    When people started celebrating about Bin Laden's death it reminded me of "Hate Week" in George Orwell's 1984. Guess our CIA will have to make up a new face for Americans to direct their hate/fear at.

    May 23, 2011 at 9:33 am |
  19. OZZY

    Homegirl you were still in grammar school when 9/11 happened, in which most of the schools kept it quite until you got home; and your parents probably sat you down and told your what happened that day. Let’s fast forward. I was at work that day fresh out and green out of college and watch this most horrid day all unfold in front of my own very eyes. I watched over 2,000 people die that day, because of one man who evidently hated the United States. Since then, the U.S. has been under a dark cloud and the uneasy feeling of terrorism was amongst all of us. So excuse us for feeling a little bit of a morale boost celebrating the SOB’s death. May he rot in hell-and not be met by 17 virgins. NO APOLOGY SHOULD EVER BE MADE FOR THAT SOB!

    May 23, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  20. Mary

    You have got to be kidding me. GROW UP. Stop boohooing yourself and our generation and making excuses for hate fueled actions. Are you so blind as to one of the huge reason the Israelis and palistinians have been fighting so long? It's because there is so much hatred and kids see their parents killed, wind up hating the other side and all of the sudden you've got a never ending death spiral. I have no desire to engage America in something like that. Please STOP SPEAKING for our generation until you grow up a little.

    May 23, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • GrownUp

      Mary – she has as much right as you do to speak her mind. The point you don't understand is that terrorists are international bullies. Bullies don't understand reason, logic, etc. They understand violence and that is the only way to deal with them. It's not that I don't like peace. It's just that failure to bring violence to evil bullies results in oppression of the innocent.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Really?

      We are grown up. You have to learn to accept that hatred is a excessive evil that comes with making decisions. There will always be critics and praises but the best way to avert someone's assertion is to grow a pair and look the other way.

      May 24, 2011 at 4:28 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.