Last night, it was announced that President Obama would make a special address at 10:30 PM. Hard as I tried to stay awake and watch, I didn’t make it. Lack of sleep the night before, an all day headache and two and a half hour drive all conspired to knock me out. Imagine my surprise this morning to wake up to the news that Osama Bin Laden was dead. I’ll admit to feeling relieved at first; getting Bin Laden has been the center point of the “War on Terror” since it’s inception and knowing that had been accomplished felt good. Then, the other emotions began to rush in. Uncertainty: “Is this death really going to make a difference?”; anger: “Oh great, make him a martyr.”; and sadness: “They’re ecstatic about the death of another human being.”
Yes, this morning on the CBS Early Show, I saw Americans at Ground Zero waving American flags and chanting “USA! USA! USA!”, insanely happy that Osama Bin Laden was dead and it made me so sad. Is that the level America has sunk too? Elation over the death of our enemies and mindless patriotic flag-waving does not speak well of us. It says we’ve settled at the same level of those enemies, which means they’ve won. Now, I’m not going to tell you that we should have let Bin Laden go; I realize that’s not an option in today’s world. I wish with all my heart it was, but it’s not. I’m not going to tell you that it would have been better to capture Bin Laden and put him on trial, because it wouldn’t be. No, sad as it makes me, his assassination was the probably the best of a shitty lot of options. But, damned if I’ll jump around like idiot and celebrate anyone’s death.
I see some hackles rising because of that last statement, so let me give you a little background. On September 11, 2001, I was at work at Fire Station 21 in Raleigh North Carolina, going through my normal morning routine. For those of you who aren’t firefighters, the morning of a shift begins with a set routine that varies little between fire departments. First, check the equipment (gotta make sure it all works); second, clean the station, including mopping the floors and scrubbing the toilets (a fire station toilet rivals a hospital OR for cleanliness); then take a break and make the most important decision of the day: what to eat. I was in the “mopping the floors” stage of that routine when my captain called me into the dayroom, pointing at the television. We sat there in disbelief and watched two jet liners crash into the twin buildings of the World Trade Center. It was absolutely surreal and, at first, we didn’t believe what we were seeing. It only got worse as we watched the towers collapse with 343 of our brothers and sisters inside, working desperately to get people out and quell the fires that raged. Words really can’t describe what I felt at that particular moment. Afterward, I felt the outrage that swept the country. I wanted Bin Laden’s head on a pike and I wanted it then and there. Not anymore. Today, I’m sad this man had to die. Reprehensible as his actions were, he was still a child of God and there is nothing to celebrate in his death. That anyone could think so brings me incredible sadness.