The morning after Bin Laden

This morning I woke up to a sliver or orange sun rising over the northern Florida Atlantic and stood out on the hotel room terrace to watch it grow. A brief moment of zen far from the images of rage and celebration and triumph that are flooding the media in the wake of Bin Laden’s death.

I am glad we killed the terrorist fuck, no doubt about it. I hope he rots in whatever version of hell he spent his sick, misdirected life fearing, and I hope it’s a million times worse than anything he could have imagined. But I look at the photos of American celebration and I think…am I missing something?

I feel proud of my President and our military. I feel some degree of relief. I feel like shouting NOW THAT’S WHAT MISSION ACCOMPLISHED LOOKS LIKE. But I don’t feel like partying.

Maybe I’d feel differently if I were home, where the gaping hole in the downtown skyline is a constant reminder of 2001, and not alone in a sterile hotel room.  It’s possible.

I do wish I could hug my kids right now. Painfully and desperately. I do wish I could be a part of the the energy of my family, my neighbors, and the city of New York right now, just to know what it feels like.

I also wish we all learn someday whether the White House intentionally planned the announcement right in the middle of The Apprentice. Because that was awesome in every way.


53 thoughts on “The morning after Bin Laden”

  1. President Obama so planned to preempt Celebrity Apprentice. And then he waited until Watch What Happens Live was finished so he could go on air after seeing Andy's Mazel of the week 🙂

  2. Relief. Tremendous relief. On 9/11 I was living 3 blocks from the Twin Towers. I was evacuated. When I was allowed back in my apartment, it was coated in dust. I am relieved. But the idea of partying? Appalls me.

  3. ‎”I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.” – Mark Twain

  4. The crowds I've seen look pretty young. They were in elementary and middle school and early high school during 9/11.

    I think that's a big part of it — it was one of those things that changed the tenor of their lives, but with that amorphous, child sense of what it all meant. It had to feel personal for those kids, because that's how kids think.

    It meant that their parents were shell-shocked for days, it meant that they saw adults not knowing what was best to do, it meant seeing adults saying, “don't be afraid,” but doing it while they were clearly afraid.

    So, now they're celebrating in the way they celebrate, but it's a weird blend of adult and child, I think.

  5. Once again, yes. Your words ring true and put a voice to the thoughts bouncing around my head. And I noticed the same thing as the commenter before me: the celebrators seem to be younger than those of us who were adults on that day. I don't know what that means but I do note that the general tone among my generation this morning (on facebook – take it with whatever grain of salt you wish) is not celebratory.

  6. I am with you. Street celebrations feel strange and I don't really like the way it makes us look. I hated the man and I am personally. Happy they got him. I am feeling more melancholy than celebratory because really, this ain't over.

  7. I get very nervous and unsettled when I listen to an NPR call-in show and it sounds exactly the same as a Glen Beck call-in show.

    Zealous fist-pumping always makes me uneasy.

    And when my normally stoic Facebook feed suddenly looks like the punchline to a Jeff Foxworthy joke, I hunker down.

    Someone quipped “Looks like election season 2012 has begun.” I wish I wasn't cynical enough to wonder if that is true.

  8. Agreed. Glad this chapter has a resolution, fearful for what comes next. When the same people chanting in our streets see it across the globe, it's radicalism. I'm emotionally exhausted after this past week and am just praying the media doesn't switch total focus from our tragedy here in Alabama to this only – although I am sure everyone would like the positive spin rather than what so many are facing here. I haven't slept one night since last Wednesday without a tornado in my dreams.

  9. I'm not celebrating either. But I do hope that those most affected by the murders on 9/11 have a measure of peace.

    And give it a few hours. Those who are celebrating will question our patriotism.

  10. Well said, Liz. Relieved? Yes. Feeling as if my children might be just a tad safer than when Bin Laden was alive. A bit. Feeling as if justice was served? Absolutely. Jubilant? No. There is no reason to celebrate violence in any form. We're better than that.

  11. yeah, i really don't get the “celebrating”. i understand the feelings behind his death, but the actual partying and whatnot is a bit disturbing to me. and seriously, who left the Apprentice?!?

  12. I don't know—it's only natural for people to want to come together in a moment like this and send up a collective cheer—the spontaneous singing of American tunes and chants of “USA” made me tear up. And, it's only natural to have a few idiots drinking a beer and saying, “whoa! party!” To me, it feels so perfectly American.

    Love that Mark Twain quote in your comments. So very true.

    And, heh, my word verification: “parti” Hmmmmmm. . .

  13. Thank you for saying what I've been thinking. I was afraid to say much out loud except to my husband, but I mentioned to him “I'm just not sure that celebrating death in the streets says anything good about a society.” I was an adult when 9/11 happened, and far away from home – I spent the day frantically tracking down family members, some of whom were at Ground Zero. I'm glad the world is a bit safer this morning, but dancing in the streets? No.

  14. I can't say it any better than you've already said, or than all the previous commenters have as well… I was thrilled to hear they finally got the bastard, and yet fearful still – as I know that his followers and ideals did not die with him… and I'm certain that at some point, retaliation will come… I just hope that when it does, we're ready for it, and it has minimal impact.

  15. No reason to judge people's reactions to Bin Laden's death. We all felt the 9/11 tragedy differently and will react differently.

  16. Rebecca, I'm not casting any judgments on people. I'm not disparaging them, nor is anyone else here. I'm simply describing the fact that it makes me uncomfortable.

    We always have the right to our feelings.

  17. So I just wrote a whole long comment that felt great and then didn't go thru sooo I'll paraphrase – glad they got his evil ass, hope it's closure for the 9/11 families, momentary sigh of relief though because extreme radical terrorism lives on and now that bitch is a martyr, 'see something, say something' should become a national campaign-not just a NYC one AND finally, since no one will get to see the body b/c it was already buried at sea, I'm taking bets on how long before the Oliver Stone film gets made…

  18. Well said. I keep looking for a word to describe the crowds I saw last night on TV, the guys climbing lamp posts, the beach balls being tossed around, the singing of “Nah nah nah nah hey hey hey goodbye!” and the only word I can come up with is “unseemly.” And that just doesn't seem strong enough.

  19. You've reminded me how glad I am to be with my family now, as I was on 9/11 too. I knew many people who were on business travel or stranded at airports then – a time when we all needed someone to wrap our arms around and feel safe next to.

  20. last night, as i waited for the president to speak, i kept re-tweeting jokes about the whole thing. (humor is often the first way that i process something.) then i was confused, partly by all the celebration, and just went to sleep. i woke up to a 4yo around whom i decided i wouldn't talk about this. then he left — with my husband — and i was left with our sitter and baby. me and jenny started gushing. we needed to talk about it. she said that she was scared. then i got scared. *then* a text came in from a (usually level headed) friend asking if i'd made an “emergency plan.” WTF! my sitter was walking out the door, to take my baby on the bus, when the text came in. and now here i am, home alone, trying to work.

    i feel a bit like an idiot sharing the details of my morning — surely they are inane to everyone else– but, as you often do, you've made this a safe place to let it all go. the celebrating is bizarre, disconcerting even. at the same time, i'm happy. i have VIVID memories of 9/11, of collapsing on Atlantic Ave in tears watching dazed, soot covered folks walking by me trying to find their way home. there's no way NOT to feel relief that a person responsible for that is dead and gone.

    the mark twain quote is perfect. thank you — and you commenters — for making me feel a little less crazy and confused this morning.

  21. Liz, as always, you've captured some of my own thoughts perfectly and eloquently. I don't get what the celebration is about, and I'm still not sure what Bin Laden's death means for our country, our city and my own family. I am hopeful, because this is how I think, that this will be a positive mark for the President which will help him get reelected. Many others will feel just the opposite, I'm sure.

  22. I too am happy that we finally have done what we set out to do 10 years ago and countless of billions of dollars later.

    Celebration seems in poor taste to me. The death of bin Laden is not the death of terrorism. It is a just moment for thousands but he was one of a larger network.

    You cut the head off–another one often grows back in it's place.

    I'm still a little unsettled, because I don't exactly know what to feel.

  23. I've been feeling the same exact way– relieved and proud, but the singing in the streets? The partying and drinking and grand old time? It all makes me uncomfortable. And nervous, too.

  24. Yes. My thoughts exactly.

    (though until now, I had no idea the initial announcement interrupted Celebrity Apprentice — AWESOME. I only happened upon the news shortly before the President spoke in the East Room.)

  25. Jumping up and down and rejoicing makes me feel as though I am somehow on the same level as the terrorists who rejoice over every American they have killed. Today my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families of 9/11 and every other terrorist attack bin Laden was behind. There is relief knowing he no longer lives. He didn't deserve life having taken so many.

  26. I don't understand the celebrating in the streets but I'm a fuddy duddy like that. I don't begrudge those that do it, but I simply don't understand it.

    It was an armed forces victory and an American victory absolutely, but I can't forget that victory came with the deaths of thousands of innocent people in 9/11 and all the soldiers and civilians afterwards.

    I'm relieved for democracy and my American friends but I won't be jumping for joy about it.

  27. I haven't posted any FB comments regarding my reaction yet. I feel like I should, just because I am an avid Facebooker, but I am having a hard time reconciling my thoughts and emotions. I think I will just link this post instead.

  28. I am with you in so many ways, Liz (though part of me wishes I was also on a balcony overlooking Florida as I sit here staring out at midwestern rainy gloom — AGAIN).

    Of course we're glad that sick fuck is dead. But the partying? I think it's like nervous laughter… where emotions are so complex that people don't really know how to react or how to articulate what they're feeling. it's like letting out a big sigh, an exhale of tension, and partying is just an extension of that.

    I think we are uncomfortable with the partying because of what that psycho represented and symbolized: the deaths of thousands of innocents and a seismic shift in our way of life. Linking together terrorism with partying is problematic, even if that party is in celebration of some sort of victory OVER said terrorism.

    Life as we knew it is over, in large part because of bin Laden. And though he is dead, his legacy is still very much alive, and still bringing about the deaths of Americans and their allies every single day of the week.

    Yet — tonight I will drink a stiff martini with my husband, hug my children, let them eat more dessert than usual, and toast to the end of that murderous fuck and the contagious toxin with which he has poisoned the world.

    Thanks for another great post, Liz. You make us think about shit that needs to be thought about.

  29. I don't know how to feel about it. I mean yeah, like you said, glad HE'S gone but the cynical part of me just says “who's next” and I hate that. The WHOLE terrorist thing just sucks.

  30. The hardest part was explaining it to my children. But I don't feel badly about his death- I hope he suffered.

    Didn't mention that part to my kids, but they didn't really need to know that.

    All they wanted to know was whether they were safe and how many kids lost their parents.

  31. Well said, as always. As a non-New Yorker, I'm always careful about what I have to say about the whole tragedy. Yet since my daughter's birthday is Sept. 11, we feel some connection to it. I dream of the day when there's real closure for the victims. Is that now? I hope so, but I kinda doubt it.

    I also dream of the day when the media stops doing 9/11 commemorative pieces. Is that selfish of me?

  32. Thanks. I knew you'd have some insight, and I've been having trouble articulating the way I feel today.

  33. I understand the relief and closure that bin Laden's death provides. And am not at all sorry that he's dead.

    But… death is nothing to celebrate. Neither is war. Innocents get hurt. According to the news reports, a woman was killed because a combatant used her as a human shield.

    And I ask myself — do our celebrations *now* look any better to the other side — really — than *their* celebrations did to us nearly 10 years ago? I don't think so, and in that, I fear we create a whole new problem.

  34. Apparently, many of those “celebrating” are college-aged kids — people who were children when it happened, but old enough to be aware of it and whose parents had to help them make any sense of it. I wonder if it's life inexperience that has caused what is being described as a collective party? Or is it coming from a group that's been raised to believe from movies and culture that when the bad guy “gets it” it's time to celebrate?

  35. I appreciate you taking on the subject. I read this just after I blogged about it myself, focusing on the unfortunate similarity between my emotional reaction to the jubilant crowds at the royal wedding and the jubilant crowds greeting the announcement of Bin Laden's death. I don't approve of the celebrating, but I do understand the impulse.

  36. Each generation perceives an event through its collective lens. Jen said it best: the college kids who celebrated did so as if their team won the soccer championship. They celebrated the event. You commemorated the event with the emotion that comes with age and experience. That's just the way history works I guess. May your birthday be a different story this year.

  37. Though glad that they got the guy, I felt uneasy with some of the celebrations in the streets because it brought to mind similar activity in more than a few Middle Eastern city streets after 9/11.

  38. I can't help but think that many of the people who were out partying in the streets and celebrating were most likely the same people who were horrified when those on the opposite side did the same thing after 9/11. I don't think it's right in any circumstance, because it just fuels the desire for vengeance. I also think that when certain ex-presidents publicly call it a “victory”, that throws down the gauntlet and can't end well.

    As an American living overseas, I now feel much LESS safer and am constantly worrying about the safety of my children in a way that I did not before. For those of us Americans across the world, this brings us a feeling of dread rather than well-being. We know that there is a good chance that there will be violent reprisals, and that we will be the targets.

    I am happy that many people will get a feeling of closure from this, but this does not stop the reality of terrorism or attacks. As one person said, when you cut off the monster's head, another grows back.

  39. I sooooo agree with your post. And I happen to be one of those crazy right-wing Republicans! (We differ on our political opinions, Liz…but we are SO on the same wave length about the joys and frustrations of being a mom…working mom who travels…etc)

    It is very off setting to see parties in the streets… While I am thrilled that he was finally brought to justice and am pleased that the president gave the authorization for our brave men in uniform to take out the bastard…I am also holding my breath for what the future holds.

  40. Right now, right this moment the announcement means that my husband has gone from a relatively safe desk duty to pulling guard duty on a rotating 24-hour schedule. Because the base is on high alert. And I found out about that several hours before the president's announcement without knowing the reason behind the elevated threat level about 2 minutes before I was about to take an oral exam on Sunday “Called into work, have taken kids with me. Will let you know when I know.” I'm thankful he's not in Afghanistan or Iraq like some of my friends' spouses and I can't imagine their worry as I'm very worried about them. We at least get to know where he is and with whom and he can sleep in his own bed. But I'm about to leave on business and childcare has gone from being organized to nightmare in the time it took to text those words. And the oral exam? Ha.
    There's no rejoicing here. Things just got a whole lot more complicated for us in particular and for the world at large.

  41. Thanks anon. I just heard Guiliani express the same sentiment and I'm glad to hear it's not just a liberal one (whatever that means).

    Margaret, sending best thoughts to your husband. My father-in-law is in Afghanistan now and my heart is definitely with him right now too.

  42. Yes, it is different for those who actually witnessed (and especially experienced) the attacks. Watching the local news today, I saw a spot on a woman here in Northwest Florida. In 2001, she was on her way to a successful career in finance–and happened to be training at the World Trade Center, when the planes hit. She managed to escape, but the attack affected her so deeply that she returned here, and got a job as a clerk at her local fire department.

    When asked what she did when she heard the news, she replied that she didn't get up and shout and cheer. She said she didn't feel that way, that instead she sat quietly, reverently, with a great feeling of peace.

  43. I had a similar reaction (although I do not live in New York). Glad — no, *relieved* he's dead. But it doesn't end anything, except for one man's life.

    I haven't even talked to my kids about it because they were too young for 9/11. I know someday I will have to explain terrorism to them. But yesterday was not that day.

  44. And, most of the people who are partying are really young kids, like they might have been all of 8 or 9 years old when 9/11 actually happened, and I have doubts that the full implication of the event hit them. How do I know that? Because I was 22 and it didn't hit me either. So, I kind of think, because I am a very cynical person, that this was more of an excuse to party for some people than the event of closure it should be.

  45. That's a great point Beth. A lot of commenters have suggested the same and it's valid.

    Still, it's uncomfortable that those are the key images broadcast around the world. Just my feeling.

  46. I've been talking to my son today about Bin Laden, and it's very hard to explain being happy someone's gone, but not happy they were killed. That one of our country's priorities was killing a man. That he was with his family when he was shot.

    I don't know much about what actually happened, and I'm also not a New Yorker. I feel glad that something is over (I'm not sure what), but I can not say I feel happy.

  47. If they did plan to announce during The Apprentice they certainly should be elected for a second term because that was BRILLIANT.

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