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. db501

    our youth was taken away by the 9/11 attacks???? Really, stop writing drama queen. What an exeggeration! The lives of about 3000 people were taken away, and the action caused grief and suffering for many, but to say that these actions took your youth away??? Tell that to people that spent their childhood in WWII or people living in countries with civil war where there is a real threat of dying every single day.

    Can CNN please stop posting articles by kids who don't know anything about life yet? Has CNN become a blog for teens??

    May 18, 2011 at 6:00 am |
    • EU3

      My thoughts ,too...some of my students' lives have been directly affected. One just stopped by last week, before he was deploying to the Stan.. I learned of the 9/11 attacks when the Dean came to my class and said that the Pentagon was attacked. I was wondering where the nearest nuclear bomb shelter was! My generation lived through the threat of total nuclear annihilation. My friends and students have fought these wars. I knew that we were in trouble; the Russians were there for ten years....It is nice to hear her perspective. I hope she reads some of the responses.

      June 26, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  2. ScottS

    Boo-Hoo, your generation has it so bad. EVERY generation has been promised things that were taken away from them. EVERY generation has had its evil empire to deal with. It's the cost of living in this country. Freedom isn't free and there are costs involved. I'm not a proponent of war or economic stress, but EVERY generation in the last 150 years in this country has had its burden. It's how we deal with it, learn from it and move forward that makes us who we are, not some co-dependent lame excuse to celebrate death because the "boogeyman" who scared you as a child is dead. Please.

    May 17, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
  3. Jeffrey

    Bin laden Kill 5000 american, America kill 100 000 back plus stealing their oil, End of story. I will laugh at you american's downfall for your crime and devil act when the judgement comes.

    May 17, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • rman45

      Who are these 100,000 people we've killed, again? Im pretty sure i would have heard about this.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • Kenneth

      and I laugh at your poor english. Take your empty threats and your complaining else where

      May 20, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  4. John Doe

    1st world problem.

    May 17, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  5. Keith

    This entry reads like a timed writing sample from a standardized test.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  6. Benjamin

    Do you know the plight of Iraqi youth destroyed by the US?
    Darkness can't clear darkness. Only the Light can clear the darkness

    May 17, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • rman45

      Iraqi youth had already been destroyed by saddam way before we got there, buddy. What we did was give them a semblance of hope for the future.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  7. Generation Y

    "Those who criticize our generation forget who raised it."

    May 17, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  8. Nickle

    honestly people, each generation has its troubles. The fact that some of you are trying to weigh it is pretty pathetic. the honest truth is that this past decade was shoved down the drain with little hope for the future and the people to blame are guess who? Thats right.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  9. Nyarlathotep

    As an atheist, I don't need the approval of any imaginary sky beings before I celebrate anything. WWJD? You may as well worry what Bigfoot would do.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • rman45

      Maybe thats true for you but no else wants to have you shoving your anti-God views down our throats.

      May 18, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Kenneth

      someone’s not getting raptured on Saturday. But seriously, atheists are pretentious and you are a good example

      May 20, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  10. InYourFace

    "No Opportunities and No Hope"!?!?!?!? Stop drooling over justin Beiber, and stop blaming the world because things are not handed to you on a silver platter you spolied brat. If it wasn't for the balls our grandparents had during the Great Depression and two world wars, you wouldn't even exist. The second there is no opportunity and no hope, you're not living in America anymore.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  11. Bailey630

    I'm sorry, but really??? " For the past 10 years, my generation has had it pretty bad." Give me a brake! She sounds like one of the poor rich white republicans!

    You know the biggest crime of what Bin Laden did was that by committing 13% of the homicides committed in the U.S. in any given year in just one day, he made her whole generation unphased by the other 87% that happen the other 364 days a year.

    Grow up little girl! We have a lot more to worry about on a daily basiks than one man sitting in a room 8000 miles away.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • Nyarlathotep

      If you need a "brake," I hear Walmart's automotive department is pretty good.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  12. Plum

    My generation didn't have it so great either. When I was a tike I shook hands with John Kennedy and then he was assasinated on my birthday. Then they murdered Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. We had the endless and senseless Vietnam War, the Mai Lai massacre, Kent State, Civil Rights marches. My parents before me had WWII and the atomic bombs and the Holocaust. If you want a job, create one for yourself. That's what I had to do. If you want hope, look into your own soul. What to find meaning? You don't "find" meaning, you CREATE IT. In fact, I am still struggling with meaning. I have to force myself on a regular basis to scrap for money, to create meaning out of chaos, to have hope and love. I don't blame you for celebrating the death of bin Laden. I was relieved to hear he was dead. Just relieved, not celebatory. I'm too old and worn out to celebrate much of anything except to be able to get up out of bed w/o pain.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  13. Beebo

    I think her opening is a bit melodramatic.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  14. THOR


    May 17, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  15. troll

    Someone's afraid of Alqaeda; Unfortunately, this apology letter/excuse for the actions of people that celebrated a Death (clean and simple) and did not celebrate a "New Day" is not going to save us from future attacks or repercusions of Osama's death. Should've added your home address, that way "they" know which house to skip... pom, pom, pooooooom

    My generation taught me to celebrate LIFE.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  16. Tom

    It's a shame no one taught this overeducated generation to look around. My generation experienced four assasinations of public officials (inclduing a President), the Vietnam war, and the burning of many of our major cities as this country tore itself apart during the sixties. Add some economic troubles to the mix and the last ten years don't seem quite so bad after all. Go ahead and celebrate – if that's the only thing you think you have to be grateful for.

    May 17, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  17. Liqmaticus

    Very well written.

    May 17, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  18. exomike

    Ah yes, another whiny, spoiled. propagandized "American" sociopath.

    May 16, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • Emigdio

      She's not a sociopath, she's right. Did the Russians not celebrate hitler's death and the fall of the third reich? The last paragraph says that they're not celebrating someone's death; they are celebrating the beginning of a new era.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  19. Gabrie

    Saying that this generation is “cursed” due to 9/11 is quite extreme. Now hat Ben Laden is dead, one terrorist down, a thousand more to go. The hardship in this article is minor compare to the world. If you think about the world as a whole and reflect on what people go through, you wouldn’t call this generation “cursed” or a dead end.

    May 16, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • Myra

      True. I can't believe how the article makes it seem like life here is so hard, when in other parts of the world, they are truly suffering.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • Mike E.

      You completely missed the point of this article. There are events in every generation which strike fear and joy in our hearts. Some of them have lasting impressions. I remember exactly where I was when the space shuttle Columbia landed for the first time and when I was when the Challenger exploded. I can only imagine what it would have been like as a child to witness 9/11. Instead of being so critical, why not try and live in the shoes of the author for just a moment. This is what writing a piece like this is all about. Sharing their experience and history. Your attempt to discredit her emotions draws its own sad picture.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  20. Muneef

    Islam as a Religion has been forced now to pay for what American politicians had sown into earth. The genuine peaceful muslims have been polluted by those created and many innocents are being harvested among those created ones ...!!!  
    Listen & Watch this;
    "Lets be careful with what we sow because we will harvest".(US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton).


    May 16, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • Jaxxman7883

      Are you kidding me!!!! I would have to say our generation has had it pretty good considering what our parents and grandparents had gone through in their lives the great depression 2 world wars you want to talk about kids haveing to grow up fast. My father has a grade 5 education because he had to quit school to raise his younger siblings while he father was off fighting a war and his mother had to work three jobs to put food on the table. my grandfather and two uncles were placed in front of a fireing squad and moments away from being shot in Germany until my grandmother was able to pay off his captors. Today if you dont get a strong phone signal its the end of the world. I understand bad things happen to good and undeserving people every day but Im sorry I think you need to be greatful that you are free to think or feel or say whatever you would like and to live in such a wonderful country and that you were fortunate enough to be able to watch all of the bad things you have mentioned on tv and I highly doubt you were really affected by any of it. Lets not be to harsh on this poor girl as I do not feel she is solly resposable for thinking this as it is society who allows people to feel sorry for themselves and not only excuses but encoureges people today to feel sorry for themselves. As far as the comments regaurding Osama Bin Laden I think its unfortunate that it did take 10 years to find him and bring him to justice but I do feel that he deserved anything he got however I do feel it was to swift. if i had my way he would have been brought to face the people whos lives he destroyed that day and possably feel some of the torture his victims and their families felt and will feel for the rest of their lives.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:11 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.