Reflections on bin Laden’s death and our generation

It’s hard for people our age to remember a time before September 11. Sure, maybe we remember 1st grade and “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood,” but an American culture while the Twin Towers still stood eludes memory for most of us. We struggle to remember a time before “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” a time before color-coded terror alerts, a time before war.

While our parents still remember the Cold War and many of our younger siblings don’t even remember the attacks, kids our age represent an interim where our entire existence has been shaped by an event for which we were simultaneously present, but not completely cognizant. In so many ways, the terrorist attacks on September 11 shook us into consciousness and now, with Osama bin Laden’s death, most of the country has been given some sort of closure.

Upon the news of bin Laden’s death, twenty-somethings took to the streets in every major city across the United States, while high schooler’s collective News Feeds were flooded with sentence-long celebrations. Just to put this in perspective, students all across the United States also changed their statuses to commemorate the royal wedding. The truth is, while bin Laden’s death certainly is an important event, it doesn’t really affect our realities. The war on terror continues to unfold, and the youth of America continues to be apathetic. WWII ended when Hitler and the Nazis were defeated; the cold war was over when the Soviet Union fell; our conflict won’t end with the fall of the figure head.

September 11 is the most important event of this century that has had the least impact on us as high schoolers. We don’t understand what bin Laden’s death means because, not only do we barely remember a reality without him, but the world he helped create wasn’t strikingly different than the world of our childhood. Maybe his attacks helped define our childhood experiences, maybe they brought us into the real world, but just like before the attacks what he did didn’t affect our lives personally, and that’s why neither did his death.