I missed the memo about witnessing history.
While the news guys killed time tonight waiting for President Obama to
swagger walk up to the podium in the East Room, one of them noted that we’ll all remember this night, this night that we learned that Public Enemy No. 1, Osama Bin Laden, was killed by American forces. This made me take stock of the fact that I don’t really take stock of the events that constitute history in the making. Maybe it’s because everything seems to have a political spin on it as it’s happening, so it’s really hard to appreciate the real significance of anything…
As of this writing, I’m 37 years old. I don’t remember Viet Nam or Watergate…I dimly recall gas lines and the hostages coming home from Iran. I do remember the attempted assassination of President Reagan, but in my house, we were all much more upset about John Lennon being murdered, so that seemed a bit more important. Then there’s a long stretch of malaise and Cold War and the constant threat of nuclear annihilation. (Seriously, “Red Dawn” still gives me nightmares.)
Then in 1989, I was 16 and the Berlin Wall came down. For a minute there, it did seem like the world was going to be a much better place, at least, that’s what I thought when I heard this really irrepressible Jesus Jones song…
(and check out that fantastically spaztastic keyboard player…if the demise of communism didn’t bring a smile to your heart, then those choice dance moves must!)
Then a couple of years later, Saddam Hussein started his antics with the Kuwaitis and all of a sudden guys who had been my high school classmates five minutes ago were now signing up to go to war in a far away desert. Has it seriously already been 20 years? Doesn’t seem that long ago…
Because the U.S.’s involvement in Iraq has been so protracted, it’s been hard for me to keep any sort of focus or perspective on it. Then the events of September 11, 2001 occurred and I got even more confused.
On 9/11, I was a first year law student, and had been watching “Real Genius” on basic cable that morning before leaving home for class. Val Kilmer is now forever associated in my mind with that fateful day. I had no idea what was going on and as it gradually dawned on all of us what was happening, it really was pretty sickening. Out here on the west coast, there was an eerie remoteness from the acute sense of terror that New Yorkers and Washingtonians must have felt, but the world definitely shifted in a perceptible way. I grieved for the people, who not only lost their lives, but who must have been so very scared in their last moments. It still haunts me to think about it. And I selfishly grieved for myself, because I now had to live in a world where planes got flown into buildings and buildings fell down. I thought crap like that only happened in Jerry Bruckheimer movies.
And now, here we are, nearly 10 years later and the 9/11 boogeyman is finally dead. I don’t know exactly how to feel. Maybe I need another catchy pop song about Bin Laden being killed during this Arab Spring in order to really appreciate what’s happening. But I’ll be sure to tell my son that he had just eaten a dinner of chicken and carrots and he was wearing his favorite dinosaur jammies on the night we learned Bin Laden was dead. Memo received.