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. Muneef

    Islam as a Religion has to pay for what politicians had sown into earth,genuine peaceful muslims have been polluted by those or harvested among them innocently ...!!!
    Listen & Watch this;
    "Lets be careful with what we sow because we will harvest".(US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton).

    May 16, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  2. Caroline

    I agree with Adrian on two fronts: 1) The grammar on these comment threads is embarassing. and 2) An otherwise good article was clouded by the exaggeration of the "hard life" the author caims she has had. I am 21 years old; a part of this same generation, and I am not complaining about anything. It frustrates me to hear young people, especially young Americans, complain about the life we have been given. While your greatest hardships include having to watch the twin towers fall on TV and paying for college in a bad economy, other people around the world are struggling to find food everyday. I am glad Bin Laden is dead, he got what he had coming to him, and I don't think he deserved to live as long as he did. However, I did not take part in the celebrations in the street because I think it was a pompous display of a small victory. Not out of respect for Bin Laden, but out of respect for others who didn't see him in quite the same light as we do. Do you remember how infuriating it was to see celebrations in the Middle East after 9/11, after attacks on our embassies, the USS Cole, etc? That perspective is surely flipped around now, and I won't bring myself down to that level. While this was a great achievement by our military, his death does not signify peace. If anything, these arrogant celebrations create a bigger problem for our own military as the anti-American retaliations are only going to escalate now.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  3. Harvey

    I was hoping the U.S. was said he was dead while in reality they were giving him a Black and Decker dentist job to extract everything he and all his ancestors knew. Unfortunate he was really killed in the compound; he got off easy.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  4. sue

    And yours is not the only generation celebrating. I'm 62 years old and felt like skipping when the announcement was made of OBLs death because my life, too, was changed forever. THe next day people began feeling guilty about rejoicing over someone's death and the blogs started to indicate that this wasn't what we are about as a country. Well, I'm still happy he is dead and I am not backing away from that feeling one iota...it is at least my honest feeling!

    May 16, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  5. Anotherdayjustbelieve

    What selfish little girl!!!! While we worry about gas prices, other people are worrying about getting killed!!!

    May 16, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  6. Seriously?

    Waaahhh!! I was a 4th grader when 9/11 happened, and a teenager when the economy had a downturn. Now there's all this political unrest while I'm in college???!! My life is so hard.

    May 16, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  7. Adrian

    Does anybody who comments on CNN know how to spell or use proper grammar? I'm embarrassed for this country every time I read these comment sections.

    On the other hand, I think this article was very well written. However, I can't help but think this author is over-playing the role of victim and over-designating herself as a spokesperson for her generation. The fact that she was a child when 9/11 happened, or was a teenager during the great recession, or is a college student during this period of "political unrest" (BTW – when have we never been in a period of "political unrest"?) doesn't make it any different for someone who was in different life stages during those same events. 9/11, economic downturns, and "political unrest" were/are difficult for everyone. The upfront over-dramatization of the severity of these events due to her age unfortunately clouds what would otherwise have been a decent article.

    May 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  8. Tonlok

    OBL had a lot to do with the current economic hardships of our nation. Our airline industry is still stagnant and may never fully recover.
    As to her generations "hardships", maybe she's referring to the fact that going to BU will leave her paying off student loans for longer than her first house, and a salary at a stellar 30k exiting college. Her generation is also going to be bankrupted by social security paying for your all's retirement, and the terribly irresponsible fiscal policies of the "boomers".
    So for her and all these new college grads, there is plenty of hardship left to be had.

    May 16, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  9. Dorothy

    Justice, that's a big word. Now, whose justice are you talking about. Now if you had have said good over evil I could justify that. lol

    May 15, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  10. Dorothy

    Bill, no one is shoving anything down your throat. The Bible says, "religion" is something you do, not something you believe. I bet you 50 cents you have never met a true follower of Christ (a Christian), nor have you studied the Bible or even care to. but, that's okay, it's your choice. And you believe man walked on his knuckles..lol

    May 15, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Heather


      It has been proven that most of the Bible has been forged by men who were not the disciples of Jesus Christ in order to settle theological feuds by the early christian leaders. In fact, most if not all of Jesus' disciples were illiterate so how could they have written the Bible? Take your own advice and don't YOU be naive. It's just common sense.

      May 16, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • jesse

      i am so glad I am Native American you people why don't you leave my country you stole and take your bible with you we were fine before you got hear now look you have done shameful.

      May 16, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  11. jim

    Justice is a crucial ingredient of freedom and democracy. And there is certainly nothing wrong of the celebration of justice over evil. Why this has to be defended is quite evident some not only don't get it but refuse to even consider it.

    May 15, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  12. Bill

    i wish religion and the people who try to shove it down our throats would just disappear. it remains the true vestige of an age where man walked on his knuckles.

    May 15, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  13. Dorothy

    So, many americans now have become like our enemies. Our enemies celebrated when 911 happened. Christianity isn't a religion first of all. Jesus said if you live by the sword you will die by the sword. That's what Bin Laden did and he died that way. Many innocent lives are killed every day here in the US of A, it's called Abortion. Then there's state executions, you can be executed whether you're innocent or not. many of you approve of these killings and murders, so why shouldn't you celebrate the death of a killer and murderer. The USA loves killings and murders.We allow our children to play war games on computers and of course some adults play them too, the games are about death. America, whether you believe in God or not, there's always a price to be paid for your actions.

    May 15, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  14. Lawrence Tinsley

    I find here opinion dumb.....

    I'm 18 years old and this generation of youth shouldn't find themselves unique or special that they were alive to witness such an event. Every Geneartion has it own catastrophe. She making herself look like a victim (and the rest of the youth), that the event had led way to a downturn in the U.S. economy (which is has) and that the youth will grow up witht he educational tools but still can't find a job to successful.

    May 15, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  15. DIMEBAG120804

    very well voiced well written and thought out you have your own right to feel the way you want about the death of bin laddin . if you want to praise it its your choice if you want to decry it its your choice,but we as americans fight for free speech and no on has the right to tell us how we should feel,i as an american am happy we are finally rid of that piece of garbage and am fully with all the people that were cheering his dimise that night my only wish is that he could have suffered a more agonizing death then all the people he had a hand in exterminating. WAY TO GO USA

    May 15, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  16. Mikola


    I think you have articulated what many people feel. Like many others I struggle with the idea of celebrating someone else's death. As a person who was brought up to love life, it is hard to bring myself to a point of celebration. But we must also remember that this is a self admitted killer of people. If he had the opportunity, he would nuke the entire US to make his point. This killer of people, this destroyer of families got exactly what he deserved. He recieved a reasonable consequence for his murderous ways. If he killed my family members, I would pour every ounce of effort into making sure he received justice. This is what he has now recieved and for the sake of his victim's families, I rejoice.

    May 15, 2011 at 10:18 am |

      Lauren, I would proud to have you as a daughter! You write superbly and express yourself admirably. It is clear that you have thought intensely about the matter. You think logically and have expressed what most of us have already concluded. I agree with you 100%. With young citizens like you, I feel better about the future of our nation! Keep on your current track!

      May 16, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  17. Tee Dub You L

    The man killed many people, and hid behind Islam for his true hatred toward civilization. I for one with this author celebrate his death and its death he wanted, well the world is better off without Osama Bin Laden trash. Good riddens, and I guess the trash people took out the trash and should get a hero's welcome home along with our men and women in uniform for a job well done.

    May 15, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  18. Garden_For_Life

    I just don't get why so many people are critizing bin Laden's death being celebrated and some are even DEFENDING him. It just seems out of touch with reality. bin Laden's own personal diary stated that all jihadists should kill as many Americans as they possibly can. Does anyone remember Fallujah? Do you think that Daniel Pearl would object to dancing in the streets? Are we supposed to sympathize with suicide bombers and extremists for their plight? Come on people! If you really have that hostile a stance towards the US, then maybe you should go live in the Middle East and see how that works out. As another poster said, the only reason it was mostly all college students celebrating is because it was so late on a Monday night and they were the only ones still up. If there was a celebration going on that I could reach, I would have joined it. And stop trashing this generation, every generation got critized by their elders. We were all naive and know-it-all at that stage in life – because the hard knocks of life hadn't happened yet (excluding the WWII and Great Depression era). I agree that the author exaggerated a lot but she had a few good points.

    May 14, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  19. southernpreacher

    and let me throw in naive and ignorant too

    May 14, 2011 at 11:19 am |

      Preacher, you need to get educated! Go and study the following website: http://www.thereligionofpeace.com You should come away with an entirely different point of view.

      May 16, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Lilith

      Every reaction to OBL's death from every human is valid. Your judgements mean nothing!

      May 16, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  20. southernpreacher

    This must be one of the most selfish, self-indulgent, narcissistic, whiny, b-s columns I've ever read

    May 14, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • MAL

      Same can be said for you as a preacher man.

      May 14, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • hjn852

      in the scriptures, Proverbs 24: 17 – 18 tells us not to rejoice in our enemies misfortune and what could happen. just as important this man is eternally separated from the most high.

      blessings on the house of the Lord

      May 14, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Daniel

      Religion is stupid. Grow up and get a real job. Wierdo...

      May 15, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • reACTIONary

      I'd have to agree. As a boomer, I can't complain but the idea that our current recession is any sort of real hardship doesn't really understand anything about the great depression. And what does that have to do with OBL?

      May 16, 2011 at 3:01 am |
    • jesse

      Go throw some snakes.

      May 16, 2011 at 11:40 am |

      Fella, I don't think you are much of a preacher! Ever read your Bible from cover to cover? You need a new handle!

      May 16, 2011 at 2:24 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.