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. David Crandall

    He lived until the ripe old age of 43 a lifestyle that would have made Hugh Hefner proud. His goal was the complete death and destruction of America and it's citizens and we should be glad we got him before he completely destroyed us.

    May 10, 2011 at 6:27 am |
  2. Fitzy

    I'm 18, and I got to college in Boston. That's where I was i the night Bin Laden died. I know people who went to celebrate on the Boston Common. I don't condemn anyone who celebrated. I don't blame them for partying. I was watching a movie from some friends when we got the news. My reaction was mostly ambivalent. I guess after so many years of Bin Laden being practically a ghost. I was kind of like "oh. finally, well, time to move on".

    I wouldn't say I felt any kind of elation. I really had already assumed that someone had killed him years ago. All anyone around me seemed to care about was how it happened. They still joke about how he was shot through the eye.

    Honestly, killing Bin Laden won't bring the 9/11 victims back. Maybe it weakens terrorism, maybe it doesn't. We won't know the full effects any time soon anyway.

    Yes, my generation has grown up in depression. I've been told so many times that the U.S. is in mounting debt, the economy is collapsing, any college degree won't be worth anything, and the world is doomed because of Global Warming. I don't feel like I have anything to look forward too. I expect that I will truly live in some kind of post-apocalyptic nightmare. Not a 2012 situation, but an earth devastated by environment destruction and horror.

    So yes, good news is welcome. But is this the good news that we need in order to celebrate? Maybe if my generation had been more vocal, and hadn't given up on politics after the 2008 election, and we had Healthcare, and better environmental policy, and less poverty, and a fixed economy, and our troops home from wars, I would celebrate. If even one of them happened, I would celebrate.

    To me, Bin Laden's death is a cold comfort. Ding Dong, the Witch is dead. Is that really the kind of thing our Generation looks to in order to feel better? and if so, what the hell is wrong with our generation.

    May 10, 2011 at 4:34 am |
  3. elliemae

    I am yet to see Americans cheer in the streets when 3,000 innocent civilians are murdereed. To compare the two celebrations reveals a profoundly shallow interpretation of the two events. Millions celebrated worldwide a week after Hitler killed himself. Were they celebrating his death or the end of a tyrannical era and dawn of a new one? Plus – the only reason it was mostly college students is because it was 1 in the morning on a Monday.

    May 10, 2011 at 1:53 am |
  4. Srosenzweig

    I was neither happy nor sad at the news of bin Laden's death, I felt nothing at all. He was a person who had every privilege a human being could dream of and he threw it all away to waste his life on death and destruction.

    May 9, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
  5. Dr. Turi

    Indeed the Age of Pisces (religions/the past) is slowly being removed and replaced by the Age of Aquarius the future/Progression)...
    Dr. Turi

    May 9, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
  6. mike morrell

    No apology for doing the very thing you all condemned several years ago. That's America's second big problem – all hypocrites, the first is their pride.

    May 9, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  7. 711

    She says that her generation has had it bad? Try being a muslim-american after 9/11. I celebrated the death, he put a negative image on all muslims and even admitted to violating Islam itself. I was in the 6th grade when it happened and now I'm in college and when I heard the news I went out and celebrated with my friends. I didn't think twice, its a natural emotion just like laughing and crying. However, America is considered to be a role model to the rest of the world so we need to be take the higher road and be the bigger person. "Be the change you want to see in the world"

    May 9, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • Jack

      lmao. The only people who might possibly think america is a role model to the rest of the world...are other americans.
      Trust me, no one outside the USofA looks to america for guidance. You guys are so full of yourselves. It would be laughable if it weren't so pathetic.

      May 10, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  8. vasechek

    typical self-centered and clueless view of a youth... Your celebrations have been beamed all over the sphere. they gave the enemy joy, encouragement, and ammo to continue their cause. they took our allies aback and allowed the neutrals to put Us and Them on the same level.
    but a bunch of college kids got a rush for a few hours and a massive hangover in the morning, so it must have been worth it.

    May 9, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  9. EntertainMe

    @Nick I have been saying this for a long time. I'm not eactly sure what we were robbed of either. Yes, we learned a few things earlier than past generations but unless we were directly affected by the attack there really isn't a whole lot that could have been taken from us. If anything we could be defined as another generation affected by yet another recession.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  10. Gregor

    >> Of course, that's not all there is to the plans set in motion and whatnot. I'm the first to admit that I don't have the whole picture. But it strikes me as obvious truthiness (love Colbert) that people need to have an invested interest in their own lives. If we keep passing the bill to our bosses, soon you'll learn that they aren't made of money, just like your parents and grandparents never were. It frustrates me to know that 50% of people in America pay NO federal income tax. Is it really right to give them the ability to vote on where funds go when they offer NOTHING to the table? Taxes shouldn't be charity - that's what sends your civilization crashing into Oblivion to join SPQR.
    >> 18, & entering college. I feel exactly like this college student, right down to the 4th grade classroom. When I look to my future, all I see is an eternity of counting coppers and a Mordor-ish cloud of looming debt. It sucks. It really.... really.... really sucks.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  11. The King

    "For the past 10 years, my generation has had it pretty bad"
    BS!! Your generation doesn't know what "bad" is. You've enjoyed the best this country has had to offer, your spoiled, soft, and selfish. But, its not your fault, you've been coddled, complimented, and inundated with undeserved praise your whole lives. Be grateful for the hardships the generations before you endured so that you never know what "pretty bad" is.
    Now grow up and get a job!!

    May 9, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  12. Emmanuel

    Well when you kill the spokesman or you could even say the chairman of Al Qaeda....the enemy of Americans for the last 10 years. Its a grand event I think comparable to WW2 when Aldolf Hitler was killed. Yes Hitler was worst but it was the same hate that drove these men. Its just that Hitler had a nation and an Army that was world powerful with allies that were powerful as well....Osama had the ignorant and the weak minded had Osama had a nation under him there would have been WW3...not terrorism.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  13. NGW

    I am an athiest. I revel in the killing of the man most active in killing others. I detest that he chose and actively participated in the murder of thousands. And think that the death of petpetuator and victim are both sad and wasteful. But I also accuse religion of hypocracy. The teaching of Jesus at the sermon on the mount are NOT adhered to in this situation. There is no qualification for the BS of "we celebrated the dawn of a new day without bin Laden". Intellectual dodge! Jesus is a fraud to Christians by their action and their words and I for one am glad to point it out.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  14. Rob B

    Finally, someone has the guts to say this. America had so much taken away on 9/11 and for nearly 10 years we waited to get the guy who did it. Anyone who can't celebrate over this really has little respect for those who lost someone that day. No one should feel badly for being happy about the death of OBL. To think that people have to suppress this to appease the PCers is ridiculous. The guy was less than worthless, get over it.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Josef F

      Exactly! The trope that "the death of any one diminishes all" is bumper-sticker philosophy and simple wrong. Humanity has nothing to learn from Osama Bin Laden that we didn't learn on September 11.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Danielle

      "Anyone who can't celebrate over this really has little respect for those who lost someone that day."
      Listen to interviews with the families of those fallen on 9/11. Listen to the families of people lost in these retaliatory wars since. These celebrations are disrespectful to them. It's the people who lost nothing that celebrated the most.

      May 10, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • Fitzy

      I'm in shock over your words. Killing doesn't make anything better. If it has to be done to eliminate a threat, fine. But for revenge? Will that bring the dead back?

      They attack us, we attack them, they attack us, we attack them, they attack us, we attack them. The only way to end this is if we fight without hate. The 9/11 Victims died because of Bin Laden's hatred. If we carry on his hatred, we will only lead to more deaths. If we need to kill, we have to do it without hate. We have to do it because we must, not because we can. and ONLY because we must. Never for any other reason.

      May 10, 2011 at 4:46 am |
  15. !!!

    People in my class celebrated his death. They all started chanting USA USA. I of course felt great, but I'm not about to chant over a man's death, no matter who it is.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  16. Nick

    Has had it pretty bad? You watched 9/11 on a tv screen. What exactly were you robbed of? How was your "youth taken away"? If your generation has had it so bad then congrats on finding a way to go to BU for 40k a year.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Fitzy

      I was Nine Years old when the Twin Towers went down. I live in New Jersey. Half of my home town commutes to New York. Members of my family worked in the Trade Center. For a day, I had no idea if my aunt was alive or dead. Classmates of mine lost parents. My parents didn't even want to tell me what happened. I came home to my mother crying because she thought her sister had died. My family had a trip to disneyland planned. I didn't want to go. I was afraid that if we got on a plane, we would die, like people from my town. I grew up in a time of distrust of my government, apathetic distrust. A lack of hope. Every generation has its demons and its heroes. My just happens to have far less of the second than it does the first. We have very little to stick to, to believe in. Global Warming killing this planet is not a possibility like Nuclear War, it is an inevitability. I will have to live in a destroyed world. I have to live now with that fact.

      Yes, I have to pay 40K a year for college. I have no idea how I am going to find the money to pay for it.

      So I do feel like I, and many people I know, have been robbed of a lot. If you feel like we're being unjust, go to the children in my town who lost parents, and tell them that. See what they say.

      May 10, 2011 at 4:41 am |
    • vasechek

      Fitzy, i hear and acknowledge what you complain about, but you can't look at these things in absolute terms. compare your generation with any other in recent history. You think you have it worse than those who grew up during the great depression? WW2? WW1? Vietnam? Cold War? There was a momentary thaw in the 1990s, but other than that, your lot isn't nearly as bad as most. why all the pessimism? you are only just entering the game and won't accomplish much by being defeatist from the start.

      May 10, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Kirby

      I'm about the same age as Fitzy, and I grew up in a similar town in the same state. It is true that, physically, our generation has had it better than most in recent memory. There have been no major rationings, military drafts or supply shortages. Yet our generation really has no role models to look to. We don't even have the blind naiveness of past generations towards our country. I have grown up viewing the U.S.A. increasingly negatively, and while we don't come close to the destruction and cruelty of many nations throughout history, the good, clean U.S.A. believed in by past generations does not exist. For all the good we have done, there is bad as well. I have lost almost all faith in my government, and have learned to associate a negative connotation with the word "politician". In short, my generation has a bleak future. The cost of older generations' follies weighs heavily on us. But we also have a tremendous potential for healing and progress, probably the most in history. So allow us a little joy when an event suggests that maybe, just maybe, we have a chance at a better future.

      May 10, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • vasechek

      Kirby, again, youth is generally nearsighted. not a knock on you, fitzy, or anyone in their teens or 20's, just a fact of nature, kinda like presbyopia :). The fact that your rose-colored glasses may be thinner than your parents' or grandparents', when they were your age, IS A GOOD THING. it's hard to grow up and come to realize that you have been believing in fairy tales, that santa is the useless old pervert next door, and that people you came to idolize as role models turned out rotten inside. on the other hand it's also harder to brainwash someone who's thinking critically. some think it's better to live your entire life delusional or stay delusional as long as possible, I think the sooner your vision clears, the better for you and the better for the society around you.
      Your generation's future will be as bleak or as bright as YOU make it. it won't be nuclear winter, let's at least agree on that
      as for allowing you the right to celebrate – knock yourself silly, no one is denying your rights. i question the morality of it and the purpose. shows you how far removed i am from my teen years when i would purposely do the immoral and the useless .... 🙂 i learned to consider the consequences and to view things in perspective eventually and your generation will too. and the sooner, the better for you and everyone around you

      May 11, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  17. Ty

    Thank you for this post! I personally live in a town that chose not to celebrate... but the feeling of knowing that world was better off without this terrorist made me want to down the street waving my American flag! I'm glad others felt and acting on those feelings! This war DID form our generation. It forever changed our way of life and I do sleep better knowing that Bin Laden can no longer direct harm to America's shores. I greatly appriciate the professionalism and emotional attachment you presented in this blog! God Bless You and God Bless America, the greatest country on Earth!

    May 9, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  18. Chris Whitmore

    The "celebrations" were ghoulish and a national embarrassment. Are we no better than our enemies?

    May 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • !!!

      @Chris Whitmore.
      If our enemies are fighting to kill a country, and were defending it, does that make us bad?

      May 9, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Josef F

      The difference is that Americans were cheering the death of a mass-murderer. The terrorists cheer the death of innocent men, women and children. You may find the celebration distasteful (hell, *I* find them a little distasteful), but it's insulting to compare the two.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Alex Oliveira

      thumbs up.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  19. ???

    The truth is some people were celebrating the death of a person, admittedly a rather vile person. I am not going to say that I wasn't happy to hear the news but when I saw the celebrations it had a bit of the Roman Colosseum feel to it. Pretending that the celebration was exclusively an expression of relief is just as shallow as pretending the celebration was entirely about killing someone. We want everything to be simple but it isn't and perhaps if we would accept that then we would make better decisions.

    May 8, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  20. RSH

    George Bush told us we were attacked by people who hate freedom, which is just a spin on the truth. They don't hate freedom — they just don't want us occupying their territory. It's our country's intrusive foreign policy that started all this, and we're still over there policing the Middle East, poking the hornets' nest. We're not over there to bring freedom to anyone — we're over there for oil. Period. Our government is spending countless billions of our tax dollars at the command of U.S. corporations and the billionaires who rule the U.S. Yes, they rule the U.S... Congress is their league of puppets and spokespeople — and they're faring much better than the rest of us Americans.

    If we really want this to end, we will bring home all our troops and secure our borders and ports. There has been too much damage done here at home. Politicians want to take safety-net programs away from the working class so billionaires and corporations can continue to get tax cuts and oil wars. They call it socialism when we support the working class. What is is when we infuse the rich with superfluous wealth?

    May 8, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • Bob

      If we applied a 100% tax rate to all billionaires, it would not come close to paying for the deficit.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • HopefulTeen

      "If we applied a 100% tax rate to all billionaires, it would not come close to paying for the deficit." Not during the first year. That's the problem is that everyone wants an immediate fix rather than just waiting. Secondly, it's not just taxing billionaires, it's also cutting funding for other programs (like our over-blown military budget).

      May 9, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • Gregor

      His point still rings true. You say you won't see results, "not in the first year'... but what results could you possibly see in the second? If you tax 100% of the rich how much do they have the next year?? Oh right, NOTHING. Assuming you just mean to tax a large portion, say 50% of all income, you're still missing the mark. You're smacking the hands of the most inspired, most successful and business savvy people in America. You're smothering their ability to thrive by setting the standard of hard work & dedication so low.

      >> What do you get when you work really hard and finally make it to the top? A brilliant dung heap and a thousand leeches sucking you dry. Any sane individual would relocate their assets and redefine the status quo. It's reasons like these that send all our corporations overseas - they don't pay taxes on what they make there. Bleh. It just frustrates me.

      >> Of course, that's not all there is to the plans set in motion and whatnot. I'm the first to admit that I don't have the whole picture. But it strikes me as obvious truthiness (> 18, & entering college. I feel exactly like this college student, right down to the 4th grade classroom. When I look to my future, all I see is an eternity of counting coppers and a Mordor-ish cloud of looming debt. It sucks. It really.... really.... really sucks.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Gregor

      >> Of course, that's not all there is to the plans set in motion and whatnot. I'm the first to admit that I don't have the whole picture. But it strikes me as obvious truthiness (> 18, & entering college. I feel exactly like this college student, right down to the 4th grade classroom. When I look to my future, all I see is an eternity of counting coppers and a Mordor-ish cloud of looming debt. It sucks. It really.... really.... really sucks.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Thomas

      Im sorry, what area of Afganistan did we occupy before 9/11? Your a idiot.

      May 10, 2011 at 6:33 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.