02 May 2011

Thoughts on the Death of bin Laden

I'm still on hiatus, but with the news of the death of bin Laden, I wanted to let some of my thoughts out through my fingers.  There are a lot of things running through my mind, so this may be a bit stream of consciousness.

I was in NY on 9/11/01.  I was at a training class at my company's main office, across the street from the Empire State Building.  As we were on the bottom floor, we weren't told anything about the planes being flown into the Twin Towers until around 10 or 10:30.  That's when we were told to evacuate the building.  We had no idea if more attacks would be coming, if the Empire State Building was going to be a target, or what was happening.  I spent a little time in my office a few blocks over, and when the word that they were going to be opening Penn Station and letting the trains run (which was incorrect at the time), I stood with a large crowd of people outside the 32nd street entrance of Penn Station.

I remember three things most strongly from that day - the pain of my feet in slightly too tight shoes, the kindness of the crowd around me, and the fear that every one of us felt when we heard a plane overhead (US fighters, but at the time, we weren't sure of anything).  I was so glad when they finally let us onto the trains 3 hours later, and felt even better when my train pulled into my home station so I could be away from the city for awhile.

The aftermath hit me the hardest.  There were flyers plastered to every available surface in Penn Station, so many people begging for word on loved ones, not knowing if they were caught inside the tower when it fell.  I cried daily, seeing the desperation for information and wishing I knew ways to ease their pain.  Almost 10 years, and that's still the strongest memory I have - the pictures inside Penn Station.

And it's been with me for 10 years.  I'm not living in NY any longer.  I moved just over a year later.  Nashville is very different from NYC.  But the thoughts still remain.  Strange as it sounds, I hope they never do.  Time has given me the ability to put distance between myself and those raw emotions. But I can recall them simply, and I think to forget that would dishonor the memory of those that died.

Now the news has come that the mastermind of those attacks is dead.  And, even though I'm elated that his reign is finally over, there's a part of me that feels a bit sad.

I don't feel sadness for bin Laden.  I think the fact that he is no longer walking this earth makes the world a little bit safer.  But the fact that we had to resort to assassination... for some reason, this bothers me.  The thought that Americans had to stoop to that level to rid the world of a monster....

I know that it shouldn't bother me.  I know that it was the only way.  The capture option just leads to the possibility of escape - maybe even stronger than before.  I know that he has been a threat to our country and our way of life for far too long - almost 20 years, if I'm remembering correctly.  He needed to be taken down.  Yet the knowledge that he was taken out by an American assassin just... I don't know.  It saddens me.

I'm not so naive as to believe that the government hasn't sanctioned assassinations before.  There have been other times when capture wasn't an option and death was the only solution.  I may not know details, but I'm a big girl.  The blinders about what America will and will not do have long since been removed.  And even though I know that those that participated in the storming of the compound have been trained to kill when necessary - at that this was a necessary time - it saddens me that it was a necessity.

I guess what's bothering me most is the fact that it was premeditated.  According to Obama, they went in with the orders to kill rather than capture.  Before I have anyone come in and slam me for this bothering me, I'll say again. I KNOW THAT THIS WAS THE ONLY WAY THIS COULD HAVE PLAYED OUT. But for some reason, it bothers me that it was the objective.  I guess it's the part of me that feels that life is sacred - even the life of evil.  (And yes, I'm against the death penalty.)  I wish that the objective could have been capture rather than kill.  I wish it hadn't been planned so well that there was a bullet put in the side of his head so he would still be recognizable.  I guess I wish that the world itself could be a different place than it is.

For all that a small part of me is saddened by the way it had to be, I am grateful for the one thing that is separates the Americans involved in this mission with those that followed  bin Laden's orders to hijack and fly American planes into populated areas.  The fact that these men (and maybe women - I'm not sure who made up the team) did their best to make sure that no civilians were harmed.  bin Laden wasn't the only casualty, but my understanding is that none of the people that were killed were civilians.  And I hope I've heard correctly.

So... yeah.  There are a lot of various thoughts running through my mind.  I'm glad, yet I'm sad.  And I don't feel like rejoicing for this necessity.  Because for all that the lives taken were those who had taken hundreds... thousands... of lives themselves, we still took human lives.  And having to resort to killing another - no matter how evil we may think he is - is enough to sober me.