(Serious post time. We'll get back to the humor tomorrow, promise)
By now, I'm sure you've heard the big news of the night. Osama Bin Laden is dead- and no, not 'mostly' dead. Miracle Max can't do anything for this S.O.B. I wouldn't say that I'm happy about this development. This isn't the kind of situation that evokes joy. Instead, what I'm feeling is much closer to relief- deep, soul lightening, bone weary relief that this is finally done.
Everyone knows exactly where they were when they realized how the attacks of 9/11 would change our lives. For me, it was lunchtime in my middle school's cafeteria, when I realized that my mother had traveled through the World Trade Center only two hours before the first plane hit. Now what haunts me is her face when she talks about how she watched through her office window as two planes crashed into the New York City skyline. When the trains started running later that day and we picked her up from the station, she got in our car and wouldn't talk about it except to say that her shoes had been ruined. Later, watching footage of the debris that had blackened the air in New York play on every news station, I understood why. My mother still gets nervous when planes fly overhead.
I won't lie and tell you I feel any safer now that one of 9/11's biggest perpetrators is dead. I'm not an idiot. As one of my roommates correctly pointed out, Bin Laden is just one man, and undoubtedly others will rise to fill his shoes. There will always be despicable people out there, and far too many are as disgusting, or worse than, Osama Bin Laden. But what it means when the President says that yes, we've got Osama Bin Laden's body, is that in some small measure justice has been done. In a very real way my roomate was incorrect. Bin Laden is not just one of many. He is an example of the very worst that humanity is capable of becoming, and killing him will strike a blow at the heart of Al Qaeda and, to a very limited extent, provide closure for those scarred by 9/11.
There will be retribution. We have to be careful how we treat Bin Laden's death, because there are powers out there that are going to try and turn him into a martyr. I'm sure in the coming days- hell, even the coming hours- we're going to see increased activity from terrorist organizations as they fight in the false name of revenge, or righteousness, or independence. People are going to die both in the West and the Middle East. We'll also have to resist the dangers that lie within ourselves. We have to remember that the victims of 9/11 included Muslims as well as Christians and Jews (etc etc), and that terrorism is universally deadly. As the President said, "Osama Bin Laden was not a Muslin leader. He was a mass murderer of Muslims."
For the moment, however, we can let go of that breath our nation has been holding since 9/11 thrust Bin Laden into the front of our consciousness. Tonight a mass murderer has been destroyed, and damn but it feels good.
As I write the end of this post, I realize that I was wrong when I said that I only feel relief at Bin Laden's death. I see my mother's face, almost 10 years after 9/11, as planes fly overhead and bring her back to that nightmare, and I think that what I feel may be closer to happiness than I thought.