The last six days of my life have been, for lack of a better description possibly due to the overload, extremely eventful, on a personal , national and global level. I want to pause to focus on the global for a moment, and offer up a quick personal reflection on the news of Osama bin Laden’s death at the hand of an elite American SEAL team, the CIA and the command of President Obama. There is a part of me that is quite satisfied that the last thing he saw was an American bullet hitting him in the left eye, but mostly I am in deep thought and throwing out a few prayers in my own way.
First, I offer up my sincere and humble gratitude to the military and intelligence community for their service and tireless efforts to protect all Americans and in fact, most citizens of the world. The sacrifice involved in making that kind of commitment to a duty is one that I have not pondered enough to fully grasp, but know without a doubt that it is deeply honorable and deserves respect. So, I thank you again and again, and support your service that keeps me and our country safe.
Tonight, after the speech from President Obama declaring that we had killed bin Laden, I watched the reports of crowds in front of the White House and then took a look at Facebook to see the reactions. For the most part, I felt dismayed, not by the genuine release of emotion at this news, but by the semi-thoughtless way in which people were basically celebrating his death. I felt strongly it was not the time to break into chants of “USA!” but instead to gather for humble reflection at what the symbolic power of his death is about. Yes, this perhaps brings a sense of peace for those who lost family and friends on 9/11 and in the ensuing 10 years of war, but mostly, it should be time to find that strength and unity so palpable immediately following the attacks. I know this is idealistic and some would say naive, but I know it is possible, because I experienced it in the months right after… before it became a quagmire of politics and war.
On the anniversary of 9/11, I have often shared the following photos of my brother and I on top of the World Trade Center, or as we liked to call them, the Twin Towers. They were taken on a hot July night in 1983, on a sunset trip to the viewing deck with our aunt. We were on a month long vacation to visit our family in New York and hit all the biggest and best NYC tourist spots. We are wearing tee-shirts that we had gotten at a make-your-own shop in a mall in Albany the week before, mine is emblazoned with a decal of Duran Duran, also the same photo that hung in a massive poster on the ceiling above my bed. Oh, to be 12 again.
In this photo, we are horsing around on the pay phones, and undoubtedly were looking in all the coin returns for forgotten dimes. My brother has the visitor’s guide book in his back left pocket. The copy reads, quite chillingly, “The closest some of us will ever get to heaven.”
Next is my favorite photograph, one that makes me tear up and smile nearly every time I see it. My grandmother wrote on the back of the photo, ” …doing cartwheels in the sky.” I actually have a memory of doing that row of cartwheels, down one side of the deck, seeing the sun setting and the city lights brighten.
My thoughts and prayers are with all Americans today, especially those directly affected by bin Laden’s hateful attack. Let us rise up together, with all our myriad opinions and backgrounds and stories and go forward, if for no other reason than to honor those who died that terrible day.