Some days live in infamy. Some days lock people into the spot they were when they first heard the news. Some days change the world. For students at Southwestern College, as for much of the world, Sunday, May 1 was one of those days.
Many SWC students were in grade school when they watched the twisting steel of the Trade Towers crumble to the ground on television sets in their homes. For many the tragedy hit very close to home.
San Diego is a Navy town with many students and their family members fighting in the Middle East as a result of what happened on September 11, 2001. Many of them have returned from their own tours of duty and are completing the education they did not get the chance to finish. Too many never returned.
Virtually every American’s life was affected by that day. SWC students have grown up in wartime and most cannot remember a period when the USA was not in the Middle East with troops on the ground. Fear of terrorist attacks has overtaken our society and Americans are reminded every day when they watch the news or go to the airport. Immigrant communities have felt the effect as getting visas and passes to the United States has become increasingly more difficult as a consequence of efforts to safeguard our national security.
Airport security seems almost worse than the attacks it strives to prevent.
So when Osama Bin Laden was shot dead on May 1, shouts and cheers went up nationwide. College students celebrated in front of the White House and across the country people got on their Twitters and Facebooks to spread the news. It was all very reminiscent of the Oz Munchkins singing, “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead.”
But when the confetti cleared and the sobering details of the event hit print, many college students were surprised to find their joy criticized. Many people questioned whether it was right to celebrate the death of Bin Laden. No matter how heinous his crimes, they said, a human is a human.
And to add to the hubbub, reminders that the war is slogging on are still ever present, especially for those who still have loved ones fighting overseas. Terror experts warn that Bin Laden’s death may cause a surge in terrorist activity.
Confused youth are looking to find a way to show their feelings in a way that will not offend those who hold the valid opinion that we should not rejoice in the death of another man. It is refreshing to see young people examining the value of human life, but Bin Laden’s termination was more than just the death of a man.
Bin Laden’s death was the end of a dark era. He instilled so much fear and so much pain in so many people. Like the numbers 9 and 11 aligned on a clock or a microwave bring on anxiety for some people. Speaking Bin Laden’s name conjures memories of the molten frames of the World Trade Centers and the horror of those who threw themselves from windows rather than face being incinerated.
It is right to grieve the loss of human life on 9/11.
It is also right to rejoice in the death of a symbol of fear and pain. It is right to celebrate. It is right for those who grew up in the age of terrorism to feel a momentary wave of relief and closure. Because the nay-sayers are right. The war on terror is not over.
But at least this battle is finished.