Smart Girls Who Do Stupid Things


Never Forget

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Ten years ago, I went to sleep after the longest day of my relatively young life. I had no idea what the coming months would bring; all I knew was that I wasn’t in my bed, I had been yanked from school early that morning, was very very tired and yet very awake. As the days would go on, there would be more and more anger from Americans, because life as they had known it had been torn apart.

People were shocked and sad, and then they became angry. Their anger grew as they watched extremists around the world celebrate the death of a small portion of America who had done nothing to set themselves up for attack, save live in the country they lived in. And this angered us more; how disgusting, how horrible were these people, for celebrating our loss!

This is what I think of now, as I watch crowds of Americans celebrate in front of the White House after Osama Bin Laden’s death. Wolf Blitzer of CNN has just told me that he’s sure there will be celebrations around the country, especially in New York and Pennsylvania. Because that’s the way to handle this — classily singing The Star-Spangled banner to celebrate death.

In his amazingly eloquent speech, President Obama told us to think back to the unity we felt as a nation after 9/11, an obvious request to end the incredibly partisan political situation he’s found himself a part of this term. But in this global economy, global culture, global social media, global whatever, where did global unity go?

Osama Bin Laden was a person. We don’t have to pretend to be sad, but we don’t have to celebrate. It’s crass, and entirely below us, and celebrating his death shows how little we respect and understand what his death means.

After the 9/11 attacks, it was assumed that everyone in the country wanted justice in the form of death. But I remember seeing none of this sentiment come from my friends and family, who lived blocks from the where the Trade Towers stood. They wanted nothing but peace, and felt nothing more than sadness and confusion.

I’m sure this celebration will only worsen as the days go on, and become bogged down with legitimate questions about the significance of this event on every level. But as I sit here this night, watching and reading and listening to others make assumptions about how happy everyone around the world is right now, all I can do is think back to that girl ten years ago. She sat in front of her television too, watching a world cry out for blood, when all she felt was a feeling she couldn’t put a name on. It took years to realize that it was a cool breeze whisking away anything she’d ever thought she knew. And all she wondered was how anyone could want to kill anyone else, and as stupid as it sounded even to herself, why couldn’t we all just get along?

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12 Responses to “Never Forget”

  1. Mary
    on May 1st, 2011
    @ 11:37 pm

    Thank you for a really eloquent encapsulation of exact where I am at. I keep hearing drunken cheers outside my window and I am feeling nothing but tremendous sadness mixed with some rage. Many horrible memories are rushing back. It’s sobering.

  2. Carolyn
    on May 1st, 2011
    @ 11:38 pm

    Well done Kate…..

  3. alex
    on May 2nd, 2011
    @ 12:24 am


  4. Ann
    on May 2nd, 2011
    @ 4:58 am

    This is lovely, Kate.

  5. Ted
    on May 2nd, 2011
    @ 5:55 am

    Eloquent and well said, Kate.

  6. DGrupp
    on May 2nd, 2011
    @ 8:26 am

    Thanks for this, Kate. The need for revenge and blood lust seems so engrained in people, that dark side that is certainly a part of ourselves but needs to be transcended. One murder, or four, or 3,000 or 10 million isn’t going to solve the world’s problems or bring us into a higher form of being. Or put food on the table or give healing or bring shelter. Keep that child alive who knows there is a higher good to reach for.

  7. Why Bother Talking About Anything Else? | rosiesaysblog
    on May 2nd, 2011
    @ 9:28 am

    […] this excellent post at Smart Girls, Stupid Things by someone who was in New York in 2001, about her complex feelings […]

  8. Casey
    on May 2nd, 2011
    @ 10:40 am

    Thank you for writing this, Kate — really well said.

  9. Randi
    on May 2nd, 2011
    @ 12:51 pm

    Thank you, Kate, for putting the feelings of many of us into a well-written post. I was just telling my sister this morning, upon hearing that people were partying because of his death, that it makes us no better than the people who rejoiced when the towers fell. My sentiments echo the comment of DGrupp.

  10. what are we doing when we make moral judgments about others’ reactions to the death of bin Laden? « Chasing Fat Tails
    on May 3rd, 2011
    @ 12:50 pm

    […] But there are other evaluations of the reaction to bin Laden’s death that I take far more seriously, especially those that come from intelligent people who have been thinking about this issue carefully. One of these fine people is my good friend Kate Dries over at I read her eloquent post on her personal reaction to 9/11 this morning, and I found the discrepancy between our reactions interesting. You can read the post here: […]

  11. Amulya
    on May 3rd, 2011
    @ 12:57 pm

    Really eloquent KDD. Reading this made me think about my own emotional response (which was ambivalent, but still included a feeling of resolution that we don’t share). And that made me think more carefully about what it means to react to this death, and about figuring out how and when to make moral judgments about other people’s reactions to this death.

    Re: the email I sent you and Casey this morning: I’ve been hearing people with the opposite reaction of yours evaluate the kind of reaction you’re having as illegit, and vice versa. My thoughts:

  12. Check This « smart girls stupid things
    on May 5th, 2011
    @ 2:54 pm

    […] bin laden, september 11, wbez, young new yorkers TweetFor the past three days, besides writing this, which people seemed to like, I’ve been working on a radio piece for WBEZ. It aired on 848 […]

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