This morning, after checking my iPhone about my alarm clock and email, I checked the news and saw the headline that had already set the world abuzz: Osama bin Laden is dead. Stunned, I read the stories: Osama Killed in Firefight outside Islamabad, President Obama makes Stunning Announcement to World, World Stocks Rally on News of bin Laden’s Death.
The kids were waking up by then, so I told them there was Big News. They could tell by my tone that this was important, but they couldn’t quite place him. “The leader of Al Quaeda. Remember the Towers in New York? Him.” Oh. Yes.
They don’t remember a time before there was an Al Quaeda. Apollo was born only a month before 9/11, and I recall gorgeous weather and quiet skies outside and watching the news while nursing a tiny baby in a world that had suddenly gotten more dangerous.
Later, I remember trying to explain Al Quaeda to my small children, especially before waiting in long airport security lines when visiting our overseas grandparents. Their eyes would get wide as my words sunk in. “They hate you because you are American. Their god is Destruction, and they would kill you, a little child, if they had the chance, just because you are American.”
“So it’s good news,” I told them this morning, “somber good news.” Then we turned on the television to see if it was really true. We saw Obama’s statement repeated about five times and saw the flag waving crowds jumping around victoriously at the White House. “They don’t seem very somber,” remarked Apollo. Hmmm, no they don’t!
The kids left for school, and my sadness at the necessity of killing of any kind gave way to relief that justice has finally been paid to that wicked man. I remembered the American flag that my daughter reminded me of a couple days ago. I got it out and hung it up in the kitchen. I didn’t hang it outside – I am a guest in a small foreign village, and it could be easily misconstrued. But at lunch my kids will see it, and we will talk about honoring all the people that died at 9/11 and since, fighting that man and his band of clear-headed lunatics.
I wondered what the local news media might be saying and turned on the radio pundits. Not surprisingly, they had a lot to say, and they said it in long, flowery French prose. Among other things:
We should be careful who we label ‘terrorist,’ as George Bush labeled bin Laden just after 9/11. Yes, the so-called “axis of evil” (laughter). After all, Nelson Mandela was once called a terrorist. Someday we may want to negotiate with terrorists. Blah blah blah blah blah.
It made me mad. Osama bin Laden lived to destroy, kill, taunt and incite fear around the world. If he can’t reasonably be called a terrorist, then I’m the President of the European Union. I switched off the radio.
My youngest son Hermes arrived downstairs in the kitchen. His sleepy eyes grew large and questioning. “Why is there a big flag?” At five, he is not yet so up on geo-political events. How to explain this, I thought.
“Well….a really bad guy who killed a whole lot of people finally got captured and killed.”
“Oh,” he said slowly. “So the really bad guy is dead?”
“Yes,” I said with finality.
“Good. Can I have some oatmeal?”