Thursday, May 05, 2011

osama bin laden

Here is what I remember about 9/11. Stuart and I were in our apartment, getting ready for our respective days as graduate students at the university. We had NPR's Morning Edition on. Just after 8:00 (central time), the host reported that a plane had run into the World Trade Center. I was walking into the bedroom brushing my hair, wet from the shower. "Terrorists?" I said. "No, couldn't be," he replied, "A bomb would be much easier, right?"

It was a beautiful day. I biked to campus, walked into the music office to make some copies for my piano class. Everyone was crowded around a small television, watching footage of the Pentagon. One woman was crying. I made my copies, tried to teach my class. I talked to my office-mate, who thought that at least there couldn't have been too many people in the Twin Towers, so hopefully there hadn't been too many casualties. I had a couple piano lessons scheduled with college students (part of my TA position), but all we did was talk.

I went home and called my dad. I don't remember what we said, but we talked about the terrorist attacks.

Stuart and I had been married just over a month, and we'd gotten two or three of the same blender as wedding gifts. I'd been planning to take one back to Bed Bath and Beyond on my way to a studio where I taught private piano lessons on Tuesday afternoons. By the mid-afternoon, I was, like everyone else, numb with the news from the morning, but I didn't know what else to do, so I drove out to BB&B with that blender. It felt so absolutely pointless and trivial, but I did it anyway. The store was closed and dark, and as I drove away, I felt ridiculous and sad. My piano students all showed up, young children who basically had no idea what was happening. I remember one conversation with a 9yo, normally not an easy kid to teach or talk to, who turned to me and said "Why would anyone DO such a terrible thing?". I had no idea what to say to him. I don't even remember his name now, but that kid is probably in college now.

I didn't know anyone who was on one of those planes, or in the Twin Towers or the Pentagon. But I remember so many things about That Day, and these memories have been flooding back to me since I heard the news of Osama bin Laden's death earlier this week. Like many, I have mixed emotions. I'm glad he was finally found, and - I suppose - brought to justice. There's a bit of relief in the knowledge that he is gone. I am profoundly disturbed, though, at the knowledge that the nearly decade-long hunt for this one man was used as justification for a wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that has, since their respective beginnings in October 2001 and March 2003, cost far, far more lives than were lost on American soil on 9/11.

My heart is troubled today, but not that Osama bin Laden is dead. I think we all knew he wouldn't go down without a fight. I am grieving for what it cost to find him, to bring us to this day. I am grieving for my country at perpetual war. I am grieving for my country deeply divided. I am grieving for the price Humanity has to pay for violence and atrocities thinly disguised as justice. Could all this have been avoided if they'd just found bin Laden in 2001, or 2002? Probably not.

I am not angry. I am sad, but more than that I am resolved to do what I can to make MY country and MY world a better place for my children. It's the least I can do.

ETA: Link to a thoughtful, insightful post by a local UCC pastor - The death of Osama bin Laden and the way of love

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