Soon after President Obama announced the news of Osama bin Laden's death, hundreds of people in New York flocked to Ground Zero and Times Square in a celebratory mood. By now we've all seen the footage of what one news organization is calling "raucous street parties" -- crowds chanting "USA! USA!" and "Hey, hey, hey, goodbye," people spraying champagne and hoisting American flags, kids scaling traffic signs. It's true that Americans -- and New Yorkers in particular -- have been waiting nearly 10 years for bin Laden to be brought to justice for the September 11 attacks.
But is this really the time to be so unabashedly joyous?
Are we so quick to forget the shocking images of some people abroad who took to the streets in celebration after 9/11? It's unfair to make a direct comparison between the murder of 2,819 innocent lives and a targeted military attack on a terrorist mastermind. Yet, how does it look to the rest of the world that Americans are reacting with such revelry to the death of another human? At best you could argue this emotion is understandable given the extent of our loss. But it's still unsettling.
For many Americans, joy is overshadowed by all that we have lost and still stand to lose. If you read between the lines of the news reports of last night's "festivities," it seems that the majority of the revelers were young adults in their early 20s -- who may have been, what, 10 or 11 years old at the time of the attacks. Do they really get it? But family members of people killed in the attacks "quietly reflected from their homes." Their reaction -- like this one from Jay Winuk, whose brother was killed on 9/11 -- was much more somber and reflective of the terrible events that have transpired:
I have always been optimistic that Bin Laden would be brought to justice one way or another ... But my satisfaction with justice tonight is of course mixed with very sad feelings about my younger brother and that justice for him is something he will never of course be able to appreciate.
And, Lt. Roger Picard, a firefighter and Ground Zero responder, had this to say:
I can't say I celebrated ... It's different when you actually walk on the hallowed ground. You don't celebrate.
Like other Americans, I experienced an outpouring of emotions last night when I heard the news of his death, and I'm not going to pretend that gratification wasn't one of them. But this satisfaction was tempered by an overarching sadness over the lives lost, the civil liberties sacrificed, and the work we still have to do to achieve peace.
Today may be the time for closure and comfort. But champagne popping? That's a little out of place.