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The celebrations of Osama bin Laden's death: a student perspective

Posted by Alan Wirzbicki  May 3, 2011 01:13 PM

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Having spoken to many of my fellow students since Sunday night, it seems to me that we are all doing a great deal of reflecting. Some question the riotous cheering for the death of an individual. Some are jubilant over the sense of vindication. I'm not quite sure who, if any, are right in this case. What I would like to share is my interpretation of the event.

For us, the millennials, Sunday night was something of a watershed. While the events of September 11, 2001, and the world that emerged afterwards belong to the entirety of humanity, ours is, perhaps, the only generation that was defined by those events. Many of us remember exactly where we stood or sat when we heard the news. I can still picture the face of my mother as I walked in from elementary school. As eight, nine, ten, eleven, and twelve year olds, something so traumatic and so dissonant left a searing impression. It was, to say the least, a rude initiation into the world we were set to inherit.

I believe that cruel September day robbed us so painfully of not only our beloved family and friends, but something psychological. While the iron threads of our American way of life have experienced great duress before, this was different. This was profound and lasting and visceral. And, while we bonded as a nation during our time of common grief (a time that continues for many), our nation descended into a nebulous period of political and economic turmoil.

Ultimately, the stalemate of the past decade, the decade of our maturation as a generation, robbed us of our belief in ourselves as a nation. It took from us the confidence our forbearers possessed as they crossed the wild prairies, explored outer space, and won two world wars. We, as adolescents, saw our parents mourn, lose jobs, and feel the fear of so uncertain a world. And now, finally, success.

It is for this reason, I believe, that so many of our generation took to the streets. A morsel of good news in what has been a very bitter decade. It is this feeling of genuine unity and high purpose, not shock or fear or anxiety, which has been so elusive for our generation. Perhaps this success will help remind this generation, bred in a time uncertainty, hardened in a time of struggle, that that we are the sons and daughters of a proud heritage. That, as Americans, we can accomplish uncommon things.

Brett Feldman, a sophomore history education major at Boston University, was present at Sunday night's rally in Kenmore Square.

Photo: college students gathered around the gazebo on Boston Common after President Barack Obama announced that the US had killed Osama bin Laden and taken custody of his body. (Cecille Avila for The Boston Globe)

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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