When the ticker ran across the screen announcing the death of Osama bin Laden, I didn’t know what to think at first. It wasn’t too long before I decided that what I wanted more than anything was to see how the rest of the world was reacting – not online, but in person. I went up to the neighborhood bar to watch the news and have a quick drink.
All I knew was that I wanted to remember where I was when the news came.
By the time I settled in the crowd was getting restless. The news was stalling for the formal announcement by President Obama, talking but saying nothing. It gave everyone a chance to voice their opinion.
“I won’t believe it until they can prove it.”
“I can’t believe they really did it.”
“How do we know it’s real?”
One person in particular was frantically bobbing his head up and down from the television to his handheld device. His was a young man with a tough expression and a wiry build. He eventually told me that he was about to be deployed by the US Army to Kuwait, and this news was the best going-away present he could ask for.
“I’ll bet they’re getting wasted at the base. Man, Fort Hood is probably just erupting. You should see all the texts my buddies are sending, they can’t believe it either. I hope it was Army that got him.”
He paused for a moment as his eyes looked far away to where he wanted to be, where he would be shortly. There was suddenly some distance between the moment and the many thoughts that were racing behind those eyes.
“Still, you have to give the guy credit for being able to avoid capture for this long.”
The line caught my attention as he dragged me into the whirl of emotions that it betrayed. Was he afraid of how the scene was about to change where he was to be deployed? Was he worried for the men who carried out the raid, whom we still did not have news of? Was the formality of those two words, “avoid capture”, the smallest sign of respect for an adversary that he had been measuring up before he joined the fight?
As a stranger, I was not going to press him too hard. This was his moment and he had a lot of thoughts as he waited for the official announcement to come and give him some sense of what really happened. It meant much more to him than it did to me, even though it meant a lot to all of us.
What I can say this is that despite the first adrenaline of the moment it wore on him quickly. He genuinely did not want to celebrate death, even the death of someone hated as a sworn enemy of our nation and a gleeful mass murderer.
I can’t say how I feel either, to be honest. The world is safer without bin Laden and our forces did their job well. The terrible time it took to achieve this may have made it look like we were blundering, but it also showed that we will stay on our enemies for as long as it takes no matter the price.
But to celebrate death is to be a bit too much like bin Laden himself. I don’t want to be that kind of person. I want to move on and be thankful that a terrible period of our history is moving a bit further behind us.
We will never forget what happened and we will continue to do what we can to make the world a better place. Our military is still the best, even if politicians often ask them to do far too much. I could see in the eyes of at least one young man who was joining this fight that the seriousness of all this is not lost. That was enough for now.