Maybe I’m not one to speak; for me, the September 11th attacks occupy little more than a glint of memory-space. Like everyone else, I can recite the obligatory account of my whereabouts that morning. I can describe the staff-wide memo that was read aloud in Spanish class, instructing kids whose parents worked in Lower Manhattan to gather at the front office. I can recall a sudden pang of fear, before anyone really knew what was happening, when some unidentifiable aircraft rumbling through the sky made me consider the possibility that being a few miles away from New York City was a potentially fatal coincidence. I remember taking offense to the math teacher going ahead with her scheduled lesson, as if I could be reasonably expected to pay attention within minutes of the World Trade Center collapsing.
But the scope of my emotional attachment to the attacks or their aftermath is relatively limited, so last night’s announcement did not rekindle anything major for me to grapple with. There was no moment of cathartic release, no jubilation, no sorrow, and certainly no urge to express patriotic fervor. Just a kind of sedated ambivalence.
I did wonder, though: if the reported success of a JSOC raid in Pakistan had genuinely assuaged my long-held suffering, would I suddenly barrel out into the streets? If news of this death had truly lifted a burden, would launching into a rapturous stupor have felt appropriate?
Yeah, I probably would’ve gone to the White House had it been geographically possible, if only for the experience. But I also wasn’t absorbing an emotional shockwave at the time. Let’s not kid ourselves and proclaim that the gaudy exultation on display there represented an authentic resolution of sorrow. It was a party. And people whose pain had just been relieved after ten arduous years don’t go to parties.
Through a Plexiglas window, you’ll remember, closure-seekers watched somberly as Timothy McVeigh was injected with a dose of lethal chemicals. Perhaps some aggrieved family members were better able to cope with their loss as a result. I don’t think the longing is particularly healthy — to have one’s “completeness” contingent on the successful execution of a madman — but I acknowledge that many feel differently.
Which is why I’m skeptical that anyone who finally found completeness last night would have been in any kind of festive mood.
Yes, of course, it’s a good thing Bin Laden is no longer alive. But the wild celebrations were crude and ugly.