“A Possible Eulogy for Terrorism”
I remember walking into class ten years ago and being surprised to find the television on; and I didn’t think twice about the image of New York City on the screen, in which a lone black raincloud hovered strangely beside one of the Twin Towers. There was an explosion moments later and the ominous black turned to fire. History had changed for most Americans and it began for my generation.
We were old enough to grasp and remember the significance of the first hours of September 11, and we were young enough to allow it to forever solidify our point of view of the world and the times in which we would henceforth live. Memories of the Clinton era survive in my mind like shards of glass. Amidst even a terrible bombing in Oklahoma City, school shootings, and a White House scandal; what I remember above all is some feeling of invincibility that I sensed in my American identity and in that of everyone I knew, which may have been just enough to make us regard dropping bombs on Kosovo with a sense of removal and indifference.
This is still all conjecture since I really cannot speak for anyone else but my own self. Yet that sense of security changed at least for me that morning if not for others my age and most Americans. It was shattered and swept up in an enduring cyclone of paranoia that has survived for ten years under the now-iconic image of Osama Bin Laden, an image of a gazing and passive-looking man who smiled lightly at us in some twisted and poetic contradiction to the hatred and violence he soon represented around the world.
Last night he was killed. He was shot twice in the head. One bullet went right through his eye. He was said to have been using his wife as a human shield.
When I heard the news, when I saw the crowds cheering and hoisting American flags in waves of patriotism, I felt a sense of identity and pride in those colors–those stars and stripes– that I hadn’t felt in a long time. There was a sea of people standing in Lafayette Square, and the waves crashed in triumphant joy before the White House, which stood like some blessed beacon of promise lit up like that in the black night–like the full moon singing with the stars.
And the crowds cheered. He was dead. And the flags waved. He was dead. And the people sang. He was dead.
A girl was asked by a reporter why she was so happy. She initially seemed lost for words, and then, “…because it’s America, and…He’s dead!”
A paper next morning hit shelves with a front page showing the gazing Osama, the headline reading “Rot in hell!”
And I’m unable to feel the same degree of happiness now that so many others are feeling. What keeps me from reaching that zenith of ecstasy? Revenge at last. Am I satisfied? What is it that keeps me from celebrating a man’s death, even with the expected solace of knowing that he deserved it? I didn’t lose a loved one that morning ten years ago. Is that why? Perhaps such loss changes us in ways we cannot imagine until we’ve felt it for ourselves. Perhaps it changes us so much that we blur the long-standing line in our minds of right and wrong.
I find myself wondering whether this man, whose body now rests at the bottom of the sea, died in vain; and about how it may very well depend on who you ask in years to come. The killing of Osama Bin Laden will be covered repeatedly beneath a new blanket, each of them reading “justice”. Piled upon each other, they will ultimately solidify together like a fossil, as some ancient testament to justice that will prosper in history books and in the psyche of future Americans.
And yet, it could still be up to this rising generation, the Post-9/11 generation–my generation–and to whether we refrain from following the trend that will no doubt be started by the generation currently in power. If not, then I see nothing on the horizon but more days spent under black clouds. How many will then remain who realize that what we have learned since the towers fell, about the world and ourselves, has amounted to nothing?