Nina In New York: What Are We Supposed To Feel?
A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
I found out the news Sunday night on Facebook, of all places. Over the last 36 hours, my friends and acquaintances have been celebrating, posting statuses that range from the speechless (“!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”) to the sentimental to the patriotic and proud to the thankful to the…er…triumphant (the song “America F*** Yeah” from the movie, “Team America World Police” has been successfully burned into my brain). Revelers were singing a mash-up of the national anthem and “We Are the Champions” outside the White House. Somewhere downtown, people are checking in on Foursquare to something called “Osamabinladendeadpocalypse.”
I’m finding myself floating somewhere amidst all of these feelings, not quite landing on any one. I was away at school in Boston in 2001, and I remember seeing the live coverage and watching in disbelief, trying unsuccessfully to get in touch with my family back in New York and not understanding the full extent of what was happening. It felt entirely impossible and devastatingly, viscerally real at the same time. We all knew in those moments that our world would never be the same.
September 11 changed each of us irrevocably, whether or not we witnessed the violence firsthand. I felt—and I know I wasn’t alone—that though I was lucky enough not to lose a loved one myself, I experienced a profound personal loss. Those who died in this city, in DC, in Pennsylvania, we knew them all and mourned them in kind. Because we didn’t just lose people. We lost a sense of security, of hope, of faith in the idea that we are safe and free to pursue happiness in our lives. The attack was far-reaching and the shrapnel stayed deeply embedded in us all. Processing this sort of pain mixed with anger and anguish has proven to be complicated, messy, and for many, insurmountable.
So now the villain behind it all is dead, after ten years of emotional rebuilding and more physical destruction around the world. He’s been “hiding in plain sight” in what I understand to be a pretty decent neighborhood. We found him, no thanks to Pakistan, and we shot him in the head and dumped his body in the ocean. (This scenario is wrought with enough anxiety and toxicity as it is—I have no time for conspiracy theorists. There’s a reason I stopped watching “24,” it’s enough to drive a person crazy.) And to be honest, I’m not going to pretend I’m above feeling happy that this man is dead. Maybe happy isn’t the right word. I feel relieved that a despicable, merciless mass murderer has been brought to justice. I feel he deserved to die for what he did, not sit in the Hague and go through some public abomination of a trial. I’m not sorry that they put a bullet in him.
But there is no real justice for what has happened, starting with the events of September 11. Thousands of people died that day and many thousands more have died since. Bin Laden’s death was monumental, symbolic, and hopefully in some way redemptive for the people whose families he left in tatters. I want to rejoice and feel the same ray of hope that others seem to see, but I hesitate to let myself think that this is the end, or even the beginning of it. Above all else, I’m just afraid for what comes next, for what new monster will be borne out of this victory. For what existing monsters will come to the forefront. It isn’t a reason to stop, but it’s a reason to give pause. I do have faith in Obama, in the strength of our soldiers and the fortitude of our city and our country. But I can’t sing and shout and cheer, I can’t cry or moralize or sigh in satisfaction. I think I’m just holding my breath.
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