I was awaken late last night to the cheers and chants of my South Philadelphia neighbors. I squeezed my eyes tight and smiled at what I assumed was another victory for the Phillies.
I rolled over, readjusting my pillow, slowly waking up despite my best efforts, thinking, that is an awful lot of cheering for a May victory over the Mets. Had Cliff Lee pitched a perfect game? Would that really be cause for such revelry on a Sunday night?
Then I started to listen to the chants. USA. USA. USA.
An odd chant for a Phillies’ win.
USA. USA. USA. Obama’s Dead.
I shot up. I’m not sure I know anyone that dislikes our president more than my father, and I couldn’t even imagine him taking to the streets to cheer his death. I ran to my window and looked down on a group of young men, walking down the street chanting.
“USA. USA. USA. Osama’s dead.”
Holy shit. I ran to my living room, turned on the TV and my computer and grabbed my phone. Twitter had exploded, a very much alive President Obama was addressing the nation, and my sister had sent a text saying “Osama bin Laden is dead.”
I spent the rest of night on my couch, in and out of consciousness, watching the news.
When I woke up sometime after 7 a.m., Matt and Meredith were showing me scenes of celebration that broke out around the nation, including the scene at the previous night’s Phillies-Mets game. While I was relieved to finally see Philly sports fans being covered by the national media for something other than being assholes, the idea of celebrating sat funny with me.
Instead of rejoicing, I started crying.
And while I have finally stopped, I am still fighting back the tears.
Please understand, I was not crying for the death of Osama bin Laden. I am happy that man is dead. I know the world is a better place now that he is gone. But my first instinct was not to run to Broad Street and celebrate.
As I sat there crying, I noticed the faces in the crowd coverage in D.C. were all very young. And the two kids with their big grins standing behind Matt at Ground Zero, were just that – kids; college kids that had driven down from Cornell to celebrate this blow to terrorism.
These kids were barely teenagers 10 years ago. And while I am sure they remember the attacks and were impacted by them, I have to think their experience was very different than those of me and my friends who were all the age these kids are now, 10 years ago.
I was their age when I sat on my bed, with my sister in my tiny apartment in Fairmount, watching a plane fly into one of the World Trade Center towers over and over and over again. Then watching it crumble, over and over and over again.
I was their age when the coverage switched from the streets of New York City to some long forgotten city street in the Middle East where extremists celebrated the deaths of more than 3,000 Americans.
I was their age, working in a bar, when one of my regulars came in, sat down and said, “I just got back from my first World Trade Center funeral.” His first. Because he had several to go. He was also just their age. Like me, he just graduated college and a number of his classmates had taken promising jobs in New York City.
I was their age when two weeks later I was running the Philadelphia Half Marathon. A woman was running in front of me wearing a white t-shirt. In black magic marker she had written "In memory of my son," with his birth date and his death date – September 11, 2001. I cried then too as I picked up my pace because I simply couldn’t stand to run behind her, reading that message.
As I think about that t-shirt, I start to cry all over again. I can’t stop remembering all of these things. I can’t stop thinking about all those people that died that day. How the whole world changed that day. And even though Osama bin Laden was largely responsible for this change, his death doesn’t change it back.
Which is probably why instead of celebrating, I am crying. I am happy and relieved he is gone. However, his death has served as a powerful reminder of everything we lost that day and since.