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


    Cost of War in Iraq & Afghanistan
    Total Cost of Wars Since 2001


    Noam Chomsky: My Reaction to Osama bin Laden's Death

    By Noam Chomsky

    We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic.

    May 7, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
  2. scott

    If it makes you feel any better, there's very little chance that you, as an American, will end up overeducated. So, you know, one less thing to worry about.

    Also, for what it's worth, though things surely affect all of you, your generation has not borne any of the burdens in the world yet. Don't worry, though, you'll get your chance.

    May 7, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  3. Luciano

    Yes I unapologetically celebrate that man's death. How could I truly call myself a patriot if I mourned the death of a man who had part of causing our nation so much pain suffering and loss. He attacked women and children showing his coward like ways. If any asks for an apology I say we demand one back for thousands that died.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  4. whoaretheinsane

    "we celebrated the dawn of a new day without bin Laden."

    This is true, but it may not turn out quite like you think, little one.

    May 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  5. Muneef


    Ease with your comments about Islam ,Quran and Muslims....we always thought that people with out faith or a holy book are the ones with twisted minds or into madness.... Don't attempt to acc-use all Muslims for few ones acts.
    You see now that this case is similar to the killing one of the Hamas leaders in Dxb by Israel.
    Should point out that by such acts teaches the masses and the few to change their strategy into a similar killings of individuals in similar ways ? 
    Should expect signs to show in the near future... But now if the MidEast countries do not settle down into peaceful living from their present troubles...sadly I expect that west will be facing many copiers  of the late, attacking all western interests in the west or abroad....

    freedom of speech and human rights ?!

    So it is that you either you write what they would like to hear,read otherwise if you are not a hypocrite as should then better watch it out to what you say if you had any believe of such human rights and freedoms!

    With out you know it, helicopters or thugs landing on your roof top or at your house back yard shooting you dead then throw you in a bag off a helicopter into the Sea with out being heard...!? Any wise family men should be stopping any writing on blogs or just keep your feelings and views for your self to be safe....!! 

    May 6, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  6. WishingUHope

    The saddest part of this commentary is the loss of this young woman's hope. Raised in the most afluent country in the world obviously as a child of privilege since she will be "over educated" to have such a bleak outlook for her life is truly sad. As Mother Teresa once said "I have seen no greater poverty than the spiritual poverty of America."

    May 6, 2011 at 3:32 am |
  7. SBC

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

    My adolescence was taken away by the attacks on 9/11 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In those attacks, I lost my innocence. In second period math class, I was next to the daughter of the owners of Windows on the World as we watched the towers, the place that represented the livelihood of so many of our parents, crumble into an abyss of twisted metal and darkness. Black ash rained on my high school as we breathed in the odor of what I care not to imagine, but know all to well, and can smell to this day. My teen and young adult years were pockmarked by the Great Recession. Our college days are splattered with political unrest. And having graduated, I emerged overeducated and underprepared into an America with no jobs, no opportunities and no hope. This is not something new. Ask the class of 1987.

    My generation has been told, with reason, for years that our world is a place where there is little reason to celebrate anything. A society at war(s) cannot afford to celebrate much. Then, on Sunday night, President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden, leader of al Qaeda, purported 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, ill-informed, celebrated. The guy in the funny hat and scraggly beard, who we have been taught is the face of all evil, has perished. However, I resent the use of the loss of a human life as an excuse for college students to party. What do 9 year olds know of the choking stench of burning human flesh?

    May 6, 2011 at 12:47 am |
  8. Linda

    Wow, what a bunch of self-righteous holier than thou Christians. Me, I'm a Christian and I know that God understands my joy and relief that such an evil man is finally facing his judgement day. Thanks to a bullet in the head courtesy of the Navy. Osama did not deserve any mercy, concern or tears. He was a murderous thug whom blasphemed religion and murdered innocent people including Muslims. I wonder if you self-righteous judgement passing buckaroos would feel differently had someone whom you loved been crushed in the twin towers. It's easy to judge those whose shoes you've never walked a mile within. Evil always deserves death. Many cultures including mine which is Chinese believes in the necessity of blood vengeance. Even the Old Testament speaks to "eye for any eye, tooth for a tooth."

    May 5, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • RightturnClyde

      I like that. OBL was a criminal. Like Bonnie & Clyde or Dillinger or Machine Gun Kelly. Only HE was wanted for >6000 counts of premeditated murder (which he bragged about). There were warrants for his arrest .. even a bounty of $25,000,000. He fought the law and the law won. The long arm of the law tracked him down.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  9. Canadian

    Thank you for writting this. I am tired of people assuming that the celebrations came from a place of hate. I actually find the backlash sanctimonious. I will not judge other people's motivation for celebrating. Relief can take many expressive forms and even though I may not have reacted the same way you did I do not presume to know your heart and accuse you of being "hateful". I will not post a Martin Luther King Jr. quote toyou and make you feel like you did something wrong. I know in the end it's all about what's in your heart. Those who are full of hate will reap the consequences of that hate but last time I checked I did not have the power to look into somebody's heart. Anyways, the celebrations did not make me cringe like the self righteous finger wagging people who criticized it does. Thank you again for sharing your side and letting us know that you were celebrating hope and not death. God bless you!

    May 5, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • Alex Oliveira

      On behalf of Canada please stop identifying yourself as such. You embarass us.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  10. Muneef

    Understand your feelings of grief just as you supposed to understand the same for all innocents that suffer due the same old game that has been played for many years now by the war lords at all ends..

    Assure you that Islam did not attack you but rather a certain group or groups that have chosen to use the name of Islam in their plots...for a far reason exceeding our short sights of their intentions... What has Islam gained since this event was pulled? How many Arabs and Muslims had to pay life and blood since then? How many countries invaded since then?

    Before events America never stood beside Islam when Muslims were being killed Globally but rather stood by their killers side....how about Israelies vs Palestinians...? Maybe that only made some Arabian and Islamic cheer the event with out true understanding but rather in their mind that the tyrant got hurt in his Ego rather than any thing else... But never they did know that the same country who calls for freedom and human rights for the good of all beings to become a beast who did all that is against he was calling for just because some group was using a population as a human shield?!

    Well killing a man with out being taken and heard at court before he is condemned to death, but such act could easily make of the man a martyr that was unjustly treated and killed with out the slightest human rights.
    Wonder what secrets he had or what was the truth he was holding back that has driven his relation with America to such disputes ??
     Must have been some thing that is not supposed to be heard otherwise why he was shut out and thrown out to sea...as a man that never existed...!?

    We as Muslims would have been happier to see him in court and to question him as why he had done all his crimes in the name of Islam? and whether he felt happy now that Islam is mistreated this way after his or followers acts...!? But seems the still waters run deeper than we thought...!

    Another thing that make me wonder is that why would a man who had inherited alone more than few Hundreds of Millions of U.S Dollars and shares in Multimillion family businesses....why would he leave all that back and go to live by the sword running hiding in the mountains chased by the world and to die waste in the end?? Would have understood if had nothing but with all that he had why chose this hard short life over riches ?? That is a secret I would want to know! 

    May 5, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • collins61

      America never stood alongside Muslims because Muslims were too busy attacking Christians. Furthermore, if You Muslims wanted to see bin laden in court so bad then you Muslims should have got organized gone out and got him. But you didn't. In fact, one of the most Islamic nations in the world had Bin Laden living in a mansion for 6 years so, forgive the west if we seem troubled, its because we are. Common sense and political correctness never were very good together.

      May 5, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Muneef

      Just wonder who have given him the authority to represent Islam and Muslims and to declare war against to west on it's behalf? Was it the same source that gave him the authority in the name of Islam to fight and drive the Russians out of Afghanistan?  

      May 5, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      "Before events America never stood beside Islam when Muslims were being killed Globally but rather stood by their killers side...."

      What about in Bosnia?

      May 6, 2011 at 1:52 am |
    • Muneef

      How long the killer been on the loose before he was arrested, he had a court hearing and was not condemned just as the late.
      Beside that feel that help was more against rather than with if you would go back to reading what was the real involvement for.... After all your leaders called it a crusade war against Islam....all jealousy is why oil was under the feet of Islamic lands...it is all about oil resources for which all that innocent bloodshed is being wasted....

      May 6, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  11. wicked wulf

    hey say what you want.. i think the author is hella fine.

    May 5, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      yes, she is cute, but I guess every generation feels that the new ones coming along had it worst. I grw up in the late eighties so I can barely remember the challenger expoding but I will never forget waking up that saturday morning that the USS Stark was hit. That was my first hint that there was something else out there that wanted us dead. My generation was the tail end of the cold war so I had more fear of soviet bombers and subs. To me that was my ultimate fear, more than 9/11.

      But then, I live in the Mid-Atlantic and was around for the DC Sniper shootings.

      That was scarier to me than 9/11 by far.

      May 5, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  12. thomas smith

    this is the same kind of stuff americans felt / said when they killed the indians who were resisting the white invaders.
    the only difference is that this is one of the few times americans have felt some of the pain we have been inflicting all over the world for the last 100 years, examples? cuba, hati, phillipeans, grenada ,cambodia, thiland, viet nam, south africa, chile ,palistine and more.
    we bully other people and bomb them, assiinate them when we they wont bow down to us but cry just like the bullies when anyone hits back. If you want toknow about why arabs are mad at us read "the prize', readabout how we assinated mossodeq, how we paid Saadam to overthrow the elected government how we gave the isralies the atom bomb and arms .
    we americans have a lot to answer to God for.

    May 5, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • collins61

      Us Americans? You're about as American as Socialized Medicine.

      May 5, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
  13. MIllie Bea

    Your youth was not taken away. You ready that in a book. The 9/11 aftermath has been trying – but no to the likes of taking your youth away. You are not old enough to know that anyway.

    May 5, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • Alex Oliveira

      She's not old enough to know anything frankly.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  14. Joe

    This college girl who has so much taken away by her political unrest is acting like a baby. She celebrated with so many other sports fans in a sporting frenzy. Did we go to war in IRAQ cause of this? No? How were you so affected. I grew up with the Vietnam War when i was a kid watching TV at every dinner with body counts. We had Castro, We had Iran Contra, the COld War, Tiennamen square. Kosovo, Rawanda, I could go on. Jobs in the eighties, hah! None! Celebrate a death, an abstraction, I tell you these kids are just sports fans. Get off your tired me, me, poor me but and accept the fact that you are new to the real world. You who never worked in the towers, i was there both times.

    And I still do not celebrate a death like this.

    Terrible, terrible next generation, I hope you never get a job and stay in your mamas arms where the world is better off.

    May 5, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  15. RightturnClyde

    There is an important aspect to the death of Bin Laden and that is that terrorism has consequences (even for the leaders .. the henchmen). So long as the leaders can sit back in safety in some mountainous sovereignty they can send zealots and even children to blow up buildings or airplanes without any consequence. But now the leadership can see that Bin Laden and the Al Queda leadership were all tracked down and paid a price. Hussein paid a price. Kaddafi is now in the same position. Syria has troubles. You cannot sponsor terror and be immune from arrest. For many years terrorist leaders like Arafat got a seat at the diplomatic table (President Carter's way). That was a reward. Over the past ten years there has been a price. .. for the Cole, for Mogadishu, for embassies and barracks, for truck bombs, for planes, for the World Trade Center. The price needs to remain high .. extremely high. We need to celebrate when the price is collected.

    May 5, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • collins61

      I wish I'd said that.

      May 5, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  16. James Williams

    Your youth was taken away by 9/11? Really? Because I could have sworn that over the past 10 years, I witnessed countless kids playing at parks as I drove by, and buying toys as I was in Toys R Us, and enjoying forking over tokens into games at Chuck E Cheese. If anything, most parents re-emphasized allowing kids to be kids and to take in the joys of childhood over the past decade. I'm sorry to hear that you spent the last 9.5 years in your room grieving over the loss of your innocence.

    May 5, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • W247

      Thanks James, I was wondering about that too! I would like to know what exactly was taken away from this generation that made it such a burden to be in this generation?

      I think in each generation there has been "great events" that shaped the people, to claim that one generation has felt it "worse" then the other is a little short sited.

      May 5, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • collins61

      Shes a kid. She is so short sighted that she has no idea that the entire planet is laughing at her "For the past 10 years, my generation has had it pretty bad" nonsense. Is she so immersed in her own alleged tough times that she is unable to realize just how good her generation has had it? Laughable. If she even thought about that statement and the people who REALLY went through something terrible she's die of embarrassment.

      May 5, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
  17. understand

    Thank u so much 4 writing ur article sunday as i was watching i seen nothing but u kids and did not know why thanx 2 u now i do really the world is what u want it 2 b just keep ur head high and it will work out 4 u god loves u drive on

    May 5, 2011 at 9:31 am |
  18. Reality

    And the celebration continues with these words:

    Contemporary NT exegetes specialize in historic Jesus studies. Requirements to join, typically a PhD in Religious History or Religion with a proven record of scholarship through reviews of first to third century CE scripture and related docu-ments.

    Their scholarship and reasoning trump the 2000 years of orthodox, superst-ition-driven mumbo-jumbo. It is no accident that you see such an outpouring of thinking by such a large number of atheists in these discussions. Most of these non-believers have escaped the clutches of orthodox Christian and Jewish craziness. Hopefully one day we will see a huge number of Muslims making their great leap forward. Hirsi Ali and Salman Rushdie are showing the way in this regard.

    For those interested in an analysis of sayings and ways of the historical Jesus where said analysis, based on the number of scriptural attestations and the stratum or time period of their "recording", separates the actual utterances of Jesus from the embellishments and fiction, see http://www.faithfutures.org/Jesus/Crossan1.rtf and http://www.faithfutures.org/Jesus/Crossan2.rtf

    Then there is rational thinking. For example:

    The physical resurrection aka Easter of anyone does not compute scientifically or theologically i.e. Heaven for one thing is a spirit state as concluded by Aquinas. Also, the scriptural reports don't "jive" with respect to the required attestations.

    Paul erred about the second coming 2000 years ago. It "ain't" going to happen now or in the future either again because there is no place for all those bodies to go. And Earth is going "bye-bye" with next astroid collision and/or in few billion years when the Sun goes "boom".--------------–

    May 5, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • RightturnClyde

      Well it is a bit of a leap to conclude that the earth will go "bye-bye" from an asteroid collision. There is no asteroid in sight (at the moment) that would lead to that conclusion .. so this merely a "belief." Art Bell does a lot those pseudo-science things .. end-of-earth (Y-2-K, asteroid, aliens, 2012). One night a "scientist" rambled on for quite some time about what he "believed" about black holes. In the final analysis most of human behavior is based on beliefs and not on fact. We believe the dollar has value, we believe the bus schedule, we believe Art Bell, (billions spend on Y-2-K and yet everyone knew it was a hoax) ..UFO's (millions love to believe that), UFO movies (E.T., the Thing, Encounters .. people believe it). Big-foot, YETI, chipucabra, Dracula, Wolfman, giant squid, Mermaid (nice monster), man-eaters of all kind .. reptile people (??) .. X-Files, conspiracies, plots, militias, DaVinci Codes, Bible codes, Nostradamus, Bermuda Triangles, VooDoo, Witches, Wee-Gee, New Age .. people BELIEVE all kinds of things and DO (behave) about them .. buy the book, burn incense, lotus position, sunrise things, sunset things, candle-light things, songs, chants, symbols, bells, T-shirts. OK .. and then images in screen doors and caves and mountains .. orange peels, tea leaves .. often it is a virgin that they see. (special powers). Oracles .. people like to visit oracles, seers, card readers, fortune tellers, mediums, crystal ballers, channelers .. and even the police have psychics telling them what happened and what things looked like. So our species likes this kind of thing. Actaull (then) religion is not so far out. These other things are really reaching and yet people will reach. They seek it. They drive to Roswell, Area 51, sacred mountains, screen doors, grottos, caves, Lourds, Fatima.. and they see the holy thing too. (and then claim they are atheists .. LOL .. OK .. they are atheists)

      May 5, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  19. brooke

    *that WE ARE a christian nation, sorry for the typo.

    May 5, 2011 at 8:53 am |
    • SpeakOklahomaCom

      You got more than that wrong....OBL is not the "mastermind" behind 9-11, go to the FBI dot GOV site and see that he's NOT wanted for the 9-11 attacks. OBL was just the "face of evil" given to the gulible Americans...to me he's just a "dead face". I am glad he's dead but this leaves who the real criminals are undefined and STILL walking free.

      Your generation is being lied to.

      May 5, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • RightturnClyde

      I don't think you have any idea WHAT Christian means. You do not understand OBL and you do not understand what happened. But you wanted to have something to say about it just the same .. so you just babbled like a brooke whatever popped into your mind .. .

      May 5, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  20. brooke

    i was happy he was dead too. I didn't really go in the streets and party down, cause I live in Germany, but yeah, I was glad. However, can I just point something out, and this is not meant to make people feel bad, its just something i recognized. Trust me, I haven't gone back to church since I was 15.

    But, our country and ESPECIALLY our politicians make big deals about christian morals and values, and how we have the moral high ground (our reasonings for going to war and so on) and that we're not a christian nation.

    The hypocrisy has to stop. If you're not christian or religious and you partied in the streets fine. But true Christians as I was taught never celebrate the death of someone, even a mortal enemy. And there are a lot of people in the USA who like to pretend they are christian and keep up that front (christian hypocrites are why i quit going to church).

    But if you are, a so called Christian, and you were outside waving an American flag around and cheering his death on, then you need to check yourself. We haven't been a christian nation in a LONG time, and these widespread public celebrations prove that.

    I'm not here to promote religion, I'd just like to point this out. Party on if you like, I don't care. But when are we going to get our ownselves straightened out about who we are. The religious hypocrites in the US, need to stop.

    May 5, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • RightturnClyde

      There is not a separate morality or moral standard fro Christians. Morality is a universal (like ethics). It is not situational. In fact Christians followed the Mosaic law (the Ten Commandments, Leviticus, etc.) To kill is wrong in every human culture (and has consequences that include being put to death by the society). Most cultures have a death penalty. Most cultures have moral rules about children, adultery, marriage, family (parents), theft (even cultures that have no God have moral boundaries). Bin Laden murdered more than 6,000 people (fathers, mothers, children, elderly) and then he bragged about it. There has been bragging about Munich, Lockerbee, Rihyad, Cole, Mogadishu, Kille Laurel - pretty a public confession. These perpetrators become wanted (dead or alive) by the law (like Bonnie and Clyde or 30's gangsters) .. and most of them are violent and prefer to be killed. People rejoice when a threat terminated. (so do animals). It's not immoral. It's not immoral for Christians. There aren't two moralities or two standards.

      May 5, 2011 at 11:54 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.