Last night, I watched in near disbelief as the networks reported in advance of President Obama’s remarks that Osama bin Laden was dead.
I admit, my initial internal monologue was a technicolor flashback to “The Wizard of Oz” and the munchkin coroner singing:
“As Coroner I must aver, I thoroughly examined her.
And she’s not only merely dead, she’s really most sincerely dead.”
Then a more complex set of emotions set in as the news became less speculation and more final. I felt elated and victorious for the troops that pulled off such a dangerous mission without casualties of their own or innocent bystanders. I felt sadness for those families whose loved ones perished in the very cause of searching out bin Laden and can’t share in the relief of this day. I felt fresh pain for those who lost loved ones on 9/11. And today, I am experiencing a profound loneliness that I am not in DC. I wish I could reunite with my former colleagues at 1909 K Street who huddled around TVs for days, sharing stories, offering comfort, walking in silence to church services, providing tissues for tears, filling the hours together as our work came to a standstill. It would be nice to be there with them today, closing the circle.
Jubilant crowds and burn, baby burn comments on Facebook pages have taken me aback. Taking a life is serious business – didn’t we all see that on 9/11? Rejoicing seems a bit too similar to al Qaeda trainees stomping on American flags, machine guns raised, celebrating the deaths of innocent Americans.
I’m not saying Osama was innocent. Far from it. In fact, I’m relieved that he isn’t sharing the same oxygen as the rest of the planet. Justice was served. And everyone is entitled to process today’s news in their own way. But justice and joy are two different things for me, and I’m not feeling particularly joyous.
Maybe that’s what’s bugging me most today. Shouldn’t I be happy that he’s dead? Shouldn’t I share in this swell of patriotism?
Instead, I’m having a hard time shaking the cloud that rose from the Pentagon, the silence that enveloped DC in the days following, the lump of fear that lodged itself in my gut that although diminished has never really disappeared. I feel that lump today more acutely. I feel the fresh loss of all those lives. I feel the heaviness of the knowledge a day like 9/11 provides.
After the president spoke and before I went to bed last night, I checked on the boys. I adjusted their covers, pushed their sweaty with sleep locks of hair off their foreheads and whispered my I love yous in their ears. I spent more time by their side than usual, relieved, as a mother, that there is one less bad guy out there to threaten my children.
And that’s something.
In the absence of my ability to buy a beer for all of the armed forces serving our country or to travel door-to-door to hug every family member of each fallen soldier and 9/11 victim, I will pray that our children never know the fear of 9/11. May they never choke on the ash of a disintegrating building. May they never have the horrific images of a plane disappearing into a building burned into their brains. May they always see heroism in helping one another. May they always see patriotism in dissenting opinions. May they always have hope in the face of any challenge.
May they sleep more peacefully at night knowing that there is one less bad guy.