Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ashes to ashes

It's taken me a few days to decide exactly what I wanted to write about the death of Osama bin Laden, so first, a few collected thoughts.  I didn't like the jubilant celebrations I saw; I thought they were tacky.  I don't care whether he was armed or not when they shot him; he knocked over two buildings in my town, so he'd proven his capacity for destruction.  I don't want to see a photo; I am glad that a bullet was buried in the spineless rat bastard's brain.

I remember exactly where I was on September 11, and I watched the second tower fall to the ground in real time on the news.  It was a Tuesday, and the Broncos had played the Giants the night before.  I was in Altanta for a conference, so I watched the game with one of Joker's friends at a bar in Little Five Points.  Nursing a slight hangover, I stepped out of the conference for another cup of coffee, and that's when I saw one smoking tower.  I was puzzled; I now know that I could never have conceived of what really happened.  I couldn't take my eyes off the TV.  I saw a plane fly around the tower and asked the guy next to me if it was "one of those fire fighting planes."  It wasn't.  Those don't actually exist.  The second plane hit the tower, the one that wasn't smoking.  I ran into the conference and grabbed my friend by the arm, told her she had to see what was happening.  By this time, there were a handful of people in the break room watching with me.  We saw one tower fall.  We watched until the second tower fell.

I remember the impossibility of trying to reach my friends in New York.  I remember the difficulty with which my parents reached me.  I wanted to be home, but didn't want to get on an airplane.  I wasn't the only one - there wasn't a rental car to be had in the city of Atlanta.  A good friend of mine from Atlanta was in Philadelphia for business, so I borrowed his car, drove to Philly and handed off his keys.  During the drive, my colleague read aloud from the papers.  We ate at Cracker Barrels.  We finally had to take a break from the news by listening to books on CD (which the Cracker Barrel has, in case you're wondering - you pick them up and drop them off at the next location; selection is crap, but the concept is cool).  There have been few sights in my life as welcome as my friend in Manayunk when she opened the door and gave me a hug.  Joker picked me up, and I didn't go into New York until the following week.  We spent the weekend drinking excessively around his table, talking to friends, speculating about the best way to dispose of bin Laden and his followers.

I didn't know very many people who worked in the Trade Center, and I was fortunate not to have lost any friends.  But three thousand of my neighbors were killed that day, and I took it personally.  Almost 10 years have passed, but the impact has hardly diminished.  Obama's decision to send in the best of the U.S. military to execute bin Laden was courageous.  A bomb would have been a lot easier, but the outcome would have been murkier - civilians would have been killed, bin Laden might not have been.  So Obama called on our most bad-ass commandos, and then he put on a tux and cracked jokes and was given shit for not yet finding bin Laden at the Correspondents' dinner.  Obama, he's a hero.  And bin Laden, he's fish food.

I didn't hear the news on May 1; it was announced after I'd gone to bed.  I got ready on the morning of May 2, got my kids dressed, ate some breakfast.  I picked up my newspaper but tucked it under my arm without looking at it.  I got in my car, switched on the radio and heard that bin Laden was dead.  I cried, and I called Joker, and since then I've relived 9-11 a hundred times in my mind.  Al Qaeda's relevance has waned, being replaced by the democratic movements now taking place in the middle east.  But bin Laden was an evil piece of shit, I am glad he's dead and I am glad I was still in New York when it happened.  Now we can move on.

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