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. beatrise

    DC: I have to say I agree with you. This article seems a bit naive. Don't get me wrong, 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan are all tragic events in our history. But they don't outweigh the effects of previous tragedies, wars, etc.

    Really its the first sentence that gets me... "Our generation has had it pretty bad" ?? Look around! Have you ever left the US? I assume not if thats how you feel. We are SO privileged (especially someone who can attend BU!) compared to our peers around the world. Do you know that the fact that you are even attending college puts you in the top 1-2% of the world?

    Take a trip to West Africa, or the Middle East and then come back and write about how bad we have it. I imagine you'd think differently. I know that wasn't the sole point of the article- but it really stuck out to me.

    Also, although OBL is dead physically his ideology does in fact live on (unfortunately). And to celebrate someones demise, no matter how "deserved" you think it is, seems a little off. Thank God we don't all actually get what we "deserve."

    May 12, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  2. Daniel Crotty

    I am a member of the same generation and I don't even to pretend to have the naivety that this girl has. Our generation has had our youth ruined by war? Iraq and Afghanistan have both been to very significant wars but they are a drop in the water compared to the wars of the 20th century. Seriously, get real. As for Osama, well what he did from our side is most certainly wrong but to blaim him for how the next decade turned out is foolish and presumptuous. As to a world without Osama bin Laden, god luck with that. We could paint the walls with his blood and dump his corpse in the ocean but he isnt truly dead and we need to be wary of that. The various postings on jihadist message boards are a testament do his continuing ideological influence. In a certain sense celebration is the last thing we should be doing because now the hydra will grow a new head and it might be even more vicious and radical then the first.

    May 12, 2011 at 10:43 am |

    What a hypocrite. You would have condemned extremists who danced in the street to celebrate 9/11. Anyone who celebrates any death has serious moral problems.

    May 12, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • nordicmetalhead

      Not surprisingly you missed the point. She was stating how she felt that we were not celebrating a death but, rather, the end of an era and the hopeful beginning of another. I, for one, believe it's a good thing he's gone, though sad that he had to die to end his reign of murderous rampaging.

      May 12, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • vasechek

      and the people celebrating on 9-11 would probably tell you they weren't celebrating death either, rather celebrating the beginning of a new era, where brave islamofascists would be ready to stand up to the great satan and fight for their interests and who cares that a bunch of people died – they were all bad people anyway and deserved it. after all, OBL said that himself.

      May 12, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  4. Unsan

    I had to stop at the first sentence. You little brats have no idea what "having it bad" really means. You snots need to get over yourselves.

    May 12, 2011 at 8:00 am |
    • Buzz

      Amen. If they need a death of someone to celebrate, no matter how bad that person is, they are sick, self-absorbed puppies.

      May 12, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  5. Emily

    Lauren, as a member of your generation...I feel the need to tell you to suck it up. We have it pretty darn good.

    May 12, 2011 at 4:01 am |
  6. Ben

    yeah growing up in america is the worst! if only i could starve and have no chance of bettering my life.

    May 11, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
  7. Allocer

    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. "

    Haha, thanks for the laugh, Lauren. My youth was never taken away, nor was my teen years tarnished by the downside of the economy. The truth is that when things change, most Americans can't keep up with it. I do agree about the education though.

    For the Bin Laden subject. Well, let me clearly say that Osama is irrelevant. There will always be Terrorism, there will always be hatred towards us. Get use to it.

    May 11, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  8. Maverick

    "For some people, this death renews memories of a mother or father lost"? WHAT THE HELL? If I had any memories about MY mother and father killing thousands of people, going on the lamb for 10 years, AND supporting religion (any religion), I'D WISH THEY WERE KILLED BY NAVY SEALS.

    May 11, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
  9. Bob

    The ONLY thing to apologize for is not killing the SOB sooner.

    May 11, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  10. kingaire

    I can remember very well the Pakistani's dancing in the street and the women warbling because of 911. They had no shame celebrating American deaths.
    Here we go again with the politically correct crap.

    May 11, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  11. linda

    Lauren, thank you for explaining your thoughts so well. I appreciate the authenticity and the lack of just plain rancor. At least your college education has made you a capable writer – so things aren't so bleak, right?

    May 11, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  12. Frank Rzzo

    I like to fish him back up and shot him again ,,, hows that for an apology

    May 11, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  13. Susan

    I'm 65 years old, so here's an "oldie" praising you. You go girl! You are thoughtful, have an insight into human emotions, and you're a good writer.

    May 11, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  14. the infidel

    I don't think there is anything wrong with celebrating the death of Osama, because when you do, you are actually not celebrating the death of a "person", but rather the death of the embodiment of evil and the long overdue retribution for the crimes committed against innocent civilians by a confessed and unrepentant murderer. The US didn't declare war on Osama – he declared it on the US (and the West) long before 9/11 and we were fighting BACK, not instigating the fight. (he obviously picked a fight with the wrong opponent, but it is not our fault). Second, Osama's crimes and his evil intentions (or "will" if you may) have long stripped him of the attributes of a truly human person, save for the anatomical parts and bodily functions. He became a tumor on the body of humanity, and our celebrations are for the removal of this cancer from our collective heart. Good riddance!

    May 11, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • Buzz

      You need to catch up on your reading. Corporate America and the U.S. Government created Osama bin Laden, and they remain the primary reason we have a "war on terror". And since they are not going to change, the "war" is NEVER going to go away.

      May 12, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • vasechek

      contrary to this popular misconception, osama has been created by his parents. want me to go into details?
      you really think corporate america and us govt brainwashed this primate to become a religious maniac with homicidal inclinations? they armed him and helped him against his then-enemies, but he had no misgivings about turning on his "benefactors" a few years later. Why?

      May 12, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  15. Carol in B'ham

    Excellent article. It clarifies very well how our celebrations are not about rejoicing in a death, but are about rejoicing in a horrible threat being removed from our lives.

    May 11, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  16. Kyle

    I am a few years older than her. I was in high school when the attacks happened and, appropriately, sat in my AP U.S. History class watching it all unfold on television. I felt that exact same way as she did on May 1, 2011. We weren't celebrating a person's death (not that that was inherently wrong IMO), we were celebrating the end of a dark era that has dominating so many aspects of my young adult life, the same as when the Allies celebrated V-J day with raucous celebrations in Times Square. We were celebrating that when the sun rose on May 2nd, it would rise on a new day and a new world that was just a little bit brighter and a little less evil than the one before it. For that, we offer absolutely no apologies, and if you cannot see the moral difference between that and celebrating 9/11, I'll simply defer to the President. Get you head examined.

    May 11, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  17. Stuck@Work

    very well said! no apologies for a moment of joy!

    May 11, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  18. Bob

    Um, your youth was taken because of the wars? Were you drafted? No. So....? YOUR generation was cursed? This all fell on "[your generation]" only? I'm sorry. This commentary piece makes ME cringe.

    May 11, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Casey

      Good call, Bob. I find it hard to believe that a fourth grader's life was irrevocably cursed by watching the events of 9/11 on TV. Every generation has epic moments, good or bad, but they simply cannot define an entire lifetime. And at the tender age of nine, based on an incident that did not take the life of anyone you even knew, a lifetime of tragedy does not spring.

      It's great to celebrate–you do not need an excuse. But cheering and dancing at a death, even that of a mad man, makes you no better than those who cheered in the streets of the Middle East when American contractors were captured and tortured.

      May 11, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Rowlandville

      I'm 50, so this girl's comments fall about 30 years shy of me. But I think it's self-absorbed from the other end of the age spectrum to deny the effect 9-11 had on these kids. I remember growing up with the Vietnam War and the protests and the uncivil discourse. When the war ended, I was 14. I remember calling my friend, Amy, ecstatic over its end. I can't imagine how much more that would have hit home if I had, years earlier, watched those towers fall; how terrified I would have been; how that would have stayed with me.

      Kids, by definition, tend to be more self-absorbed than their older peers. But, Older Peer Bob, you are probably old enough that you need to step outside of your shoes and put yourself in hers. Lighten up, Bob.

      May 11, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • karen

      Bob, I think she's talking about growing up during the era of "War on Terror." My kids are her generation. It definitely shaped them. All three are now serving on active duty – in pursuit of extremists.

      May 11, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • Larry

      Bob, you sound like my 75 year old uncle.

      May 11, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • Mario

      How can you compare us celebrating the death of one of histories worst terrorist to the celebration that took place in the middle east when innocent reporters were brutally murdered. How can you say we are no better than them? You missed the point or you are on the other side.

      May 11, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
    • Marlin

      Thanks Bob. Sorry Lauren, but while there certainly a portion of your generation who had it "pretty bad," I doubt you or any in your circle are one of them. If anything, your generation has had it too good. Sounds like I'm generation bashing, and maybe I am, but seriously ...

      May 12, 2011 at 6:54 am |
  19. marco

    "Y'all gonna make me go all out, up in here, up in here.
    Y'all gonna me me act a fool up in here, up in here"

    "Daaaaaance the night away"

    "I wanna rock & roll alll night, and party ev-ery day!"

    Whatever your musical taste....Bin Laden's dead and it's time for a PARTY OF THE CENTURY!!!

    May 11, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  20. fauxshizzle

    I dont care about your petty gods, or our misguided wars, but when i achieve mass-murderer status, feel free to cheer and celebrate when someone takes me out.

    May 11, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • karen


      May 11, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
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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.