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. CD6910

    First, she starts off with this whole "life sucks" mentality. Depressing. Does she really walk around everyday so glum. Come one, grow up. You need to get over the garbage mentality and be thankful for the opportunities you still have.

    Second, she's mistaken; they are celebrating Bin Laden's death. They're happy Bin Laden got his and the are cheering at with retribution and vengeance. These feelings are not from a good, loving place insdie of us. They are evil in nature. And that cannot be a godd thing.

    May 11, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  2. Jrock

    Why waiste money on trial for Binladin when the US can use it.

    May 11, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  3. Fleshy Null

    Oh, if it were to be that your heart was lifted so that it sailed above these economic concerns and the silent terrors they whisper. Death, death, death. It is a promise, not a curse. So that you may find joy in even the most mundane events... drinking coffee in your car; waiting for the light to change to green once again. To all who celebrated on the night of Bin Laden's death: do not forget that joy. For it is here, at your shoulder, gazing at the back of your hand, unafraid of anything. Hear it start to laugh.

    May 11, 2011 at 1:46 am |
  4. Morgan

    I think that to claim (as so many of your generation seem to be doing) that 9/11 "ended your childhood" is overly dramatic. Having to drop out of school to care for a sick parent? That's an end of your childhood. But witnessing a national tragedy on television? Something that's painful but didn't directly touch you? You were 9 years on old on 9/11. You couldn't possibly have comprehended what it REALLY meant for America. I think all you college kids celebrating OBL's death is sick as hell, and proof of your continued childhood.

    May 11, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • Q

      I agree in a sense that claims that 9/11 ended anyone's childhood is hyperbole, excepting those children directly affected by the loss of a family member or who subsequently grew up with parents off in Afghanistan or Iraq. However, I don't think one can simply dismiss the impact of having witnessed the events of 9/11 at a young age. When I was a child growing up in the last couple decades of the cold war, I remember seeing a rather silly movie (called "The Day After") about a nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. It was precisely because I was too young to appreciate the real context of this fiction that I was haunted by the idea of a nuclear war. I lived with the subtle but ever-present anxiety that mushroom clouds might suddenly appear on the horizon. Again, no, I didn't lose my childhood, but it had a profound, long-lasting impact. Now consider a similar undeveloped young mind witnessing the very real and horrific events of 9/11 and then living with the fear that any manner of terrorist attack could happen at any moment. One need only observe our current national concern with terrorism to see 9/11 has forever changed our sense of security. Now amplify this within a child's mind which is not constrained by reason or experience, i.e. events you are able to place in an appropriate context are perceived very differently when viewed through a child's eyes and their limited emotional and mental abilities.

      May 11, 2011 at 12:29 am |
    • vasechek

      Q, is it too much to expect a college undergrad to realize that the death of one miserable lowlife changes infinitely little in how we stand and how our enemies stand? we're no longer talking about 9 yr olds here.

      May 11, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Q

      vasecheck, I wish I could say your expectation is warranted, but there are too many examples of grown ups holding onto to the irrational impressions left by their childhoods. Please don't confuse my admittedly clumsy and amateur explanation of why an event might resonate from childhood into early adulthood as a defense for their behavior (i.e. I too find the celebrations a tad abhorrent).

      May 13, 2011 at 2:26 am |
  5. myoleman

    It would have been a far greater victory if Bin Laden had repented of his many sins, and had adopted the Salvation of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

    May 10, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  6. Felicitations

    Very good article! I have been chastized by someone who thought my remarks about the death of OBL were un-Christian. Well, I don't apologize for feeling relief and satisfaction that the monster will no longer be planning to kill anyone else. Besides, I haven't found ANY churches holding services to pray for the repose of OBL's soul!

    May 10, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
  7. Beavis Lutz

    "Our youth was taken away by the attacks on 9/11 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq."

    Oh, you poor, POOR dear. It must have been so hard to live through those years and years of sacrificing your... I'm sure it was hard for the years that you had to do without... umm... the agony that you must have gone through going to bed for all of those nights without...

    Well, I'm sure that things must have been horrifying. My prayers are with you.

    Every kid from every war who actually gave something up at one point

    May 10, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  8. Jode

    Your youth was not taken away by 9/11. You still grew up like normal kids.

    Please explain how the Great Recession pockmarked your teen years.

    What political unrest are you writing about? Anything more than normal?

    When you graduate from college you will not emerge overeducated. Most of you just coasted through school, getting by with the minimum effort.

    May 10, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  9. Jode

    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”…no, you still grew up like normal kids. You still played video games all you wanted.

    “Our teen years were pockmarked by the Great Recession.”…just how did this affect you? Less Sunny Delight and Marble Slab ice cream. Come on.

    “Our college days are splattered with political unrest.”…like what for example? Anything more than normal?

    “And when we graduate from college, we will emerge overeducated and underprepared into an America with no jobs, no opportunities and no hope. “…you are not overeducated by any stretch of the imagination. Most of you just twiddled with your cell phones during class and neglected to do most of your homework. “Coasted through school “would be a more accurate description. No about the no hop, I do agree with you on that one.

    May 10, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  10. heart

    Young lady I was in the 8th grade when this happened still went to college still found a got a good job 911 was a horrible event and and feel sympathy for lives lost but in no means did it take away my childhood if it did you allowed it to take it away don't make excuses just still do what you need to do and we should not ever celebrate death even though every part of me does but I just look at it as Osama is getting his judgement now and what Americans did to him is nothing compared the wrath that God has for him so my advice is just to finish school and get a degree and you can still be sucessful despite 911

    May 10, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  11. A

    I think the key here is that there is a difference between celebrating and using it as an excuse to party. From what I saw on TV it was much more of a party. I think it funny that you feel the impact to you at 9 years old was greater than the impact to me at 25? I didn't party or celebrate when this was announced. I was glad that it happened, and I reflected on what it took to get to this point and why all the events happened and how America has changed...

    May 10, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  12. Chief


    First, let me commend you for eloquently speaking your point of view. It is refreshing to see a member of your generation so poised. But please, just remember, college is just the beginning. If you think life is tough now, just wait. It does not get any easier. Use your time know to prepare for the road ahead. If you are smart, focused, and hard working, you will find a good job.

    May 10, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Alex Oliveira

      Please don't confuse a properly formed sentence and the use of a thesauraus as eloquence. She failed to make even a basic case for her self reflexive and absurd opinion.

      May 18, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  13. John

    @Marcus: Well said. The last ten years have been tough, I absolutely agree. However I do not believe my youth has been 'taken away' because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the recession, and the potential hopelessness of the job market after I graduate college. (I'm 21) While I agree with some of what you are saying, your first paragraph is an obscene melodramatic representation of the last ten years and how you're youth has been "taken away." You're in BU. You're in college. I would consider you extremely lucky; not you're youth "taken away." Get over it.

    I personally do not believe we should celebrate bin Laden's death in the form of mobs in DC, Boston, etc. If people find comfort and closure in his death, like myself, that is a completely different situation. If you want to raise an American flag on your house, car, business after this event, go for it! If you are going to 'celebrate,' do it that way, not in an American flag Mardi Gras outside of the White House.

    May 10, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  14. J

    Overeducated? You might want to revise that. Yes, the September 11 attacks were indeed a terrible thing. Every single American alive today was somehow affected by it in one way or another. But you also need to look at the history behind it and the events that subsequently led to it. Sadly, education is at its worst in this country and most people (especially younger generations like yours) only know of Bin Laden as a man who plotted an attack against civilians in the US and that's it. Nothing else. You might want to read about the Iraq Sanctions, Operation Southern Watch, and Israel-United States relations. Again, i'm not defending the man, and i don't agree with the way he retaliated because there are many more diplomatic ways to resolve such situations, but i understand why he did it. And i'm directly related to active military personnel as well as veterans, so losses through war have directly affected me over the years. And that's something that the majority of people cannot claim. Feel free to question your government's motives every once in a while.

    May 10, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  15. Andrew

    Lauren, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You......

    May 10, 2011 at 10:08 am |
  16. Marcus

    I am from Oklahoma City, and knew people (church members) who died in the Federal Building blast. It was completely devastating to the community and to my church. I still would not celebrate the death of those involved. It completely goes against the Word of God.

    May 10, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  17. Marcus

    Trust, if you are able to attend Boston University (not to be snarky), your youth has been far from taken away. The people who have "lost their youth" are those who directly lost parents. Others who have lost their youth are youth who had to leave school to work to help support their home in a recession. Youth is (willingly) lost by those who try and make money on the streets to "support" families. Also, no matter what you say Proverbs 24:17 says "do not delight when your enemy stumbles." Point blank, that's it.

    May 10, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • GL

      How can you assume to know what this young woman has gone through because she attends Boston University? Perhaps she is on scholarship, or maybe, as many people do, she has taken out student loans. You use a biblical verse to defend your stance, but doesn't the bible also teach to not pass judgement?

      May 10, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Jack

      Well said, Marcus. I'm not religious (so GL can go suck it) but agree that only fools celebrated bin Laden's death, not least because he simply symbolized a massive disdain for the West. He was created by forces within the US government, then scapegoated, then villified, then executed by his creators. People celebrating remind me of the mobs going after Frankenstein's monster, or the middle-eastern women trilling in the streets after 9/11. The massive disdain is still there, and for good reason.

      May 10, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Kiledapo

      I agree with Jack and Marcus. This article is crap from the get go.

      May 11, 2011 at 1:20 am |
  18. Daniel

    The first three sentences of this article is laughable. If she really thinks that its been hard, Id hate to see what happens when she is directly impacted by real suffering. But I do agree with the theme of the piece.

    May 10, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  19. Raul, Los Angeles CA

    Bravo! Well said and well done!!!

    May 10, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  20. Vicki Greene

    Well said Lauren. I look forward to seeing what your generation will accomplish with young people like your self setting such an example.

    May 10, 2011 at 6:31 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.