My kids’ reaction to Osama bin Laden’s death

I didn’t hear about Osama bin Laden’s death until this morning. My husband had been up last night and watched the breaking news unfold, checked reaction on Twitter and listened to President Obama’s speech. When he told me, I was immediately overcome with joy, which seems weird considering it was due to a person’s death. But the evil that he invoked and represented was gone, and that filled me with relief and thanksgiving.

Although I did not know anyone personally who was killed on September 11, 2001, I grieved with the nation. I was pregnant at the time, and I recall feeling a deep sense of guilt at bringing another innocent life into this brutal world. I fell into a temporary depression, as did many other citizens, although I’m sure hormones accentuated my emotions to a degree. Now, even I, just an outsider to the events, feel wounds (those I didn’t realize were still there) healing. As our president said, “Justice is served.”

However, the divide between generations became evident when I woke up my 13-year-old son this morning for school. “Time to get up,” I said after opening his door. “And guess what? We killed Osama bin Laden last night!”

“What?” he asked, still half-asleep.

“Our military found and killed bin Laden!” I repeated.

He paused, then asked, “Why are you telling me this?” in his oft-used annoyed tone of voice.

His question took me aback. Why was I telling him this? It was history. It was good news. It was a sign of our dominance over the terrorists in the world. It was justice. It was proof that God is here and God is good.

But he didn’t get that. Being 13, if it doesn’t directly affect him, it’s not important. That adolescent brain doing its thing. It’s not that he didn’t care, I don’t think. He just didn’t understand why I would find it important and relevant enough to share with him at 6:45 in the morning.

I went back to my bedroom, where my 6-year-old was laying in my bed, playing his Nintendo DSi. “Do you know who Osama bin Laden is?” I asked him.

“No,” he said, not taking his eyes off the screen.

“What about 9-11? Do you know what happened on September 11?” I pressed.

He gave me a blank stare and said, “No,” turning back to his game.

Chances are, he’d recall something about September 11 if I pressed him. Surely we’ve talked about it on the anniversary. He must’ve seen something on TV at one time or another.

My 9-year-old was the most interested. Although I’m not sure he realized what Osama bin Laden did, he did recognize that he represented evil. He knows what happened on September 11, at least to an extent. And his brain hasn’t yet developed enough to reach the self-absorbed, “what does this have to do with me” stage. I imagine he’ll mention it to his teacher, and I’m sure a short discussion with the class will follow. Third graders are a curious lot, after all.

But this “Why are you telling me this?” is sticking with me, like a popcorn hull wedged between my molars. Why am I telling my boys this? Why is it important that they know? How does it affect their lives?

So after giving it some thought, I’m going to answer Boy #1’s question, even though he probably won’t even read this. No matter. At least it will make me feel better.

Why I’m Telling You This

  • Because you were alive on September 11, 2001, and I mourned your future, uncertain of what kind of world you’d grow up in.
  • Because history is unfolding before your eyes, and you should be able to recognize it.
  • Because even though it doesn’t directly affect you, it indirectly affects all of us. Empathy is a precious and valuable trait.
  • Because we can never forget what happened, for fear that it will happen again. You need to understand so you can share it with the next generation.
  • Because good has overcome evil. Hope is alive in the world.
  • Because justice has been served. People do get what they deserve, even if it’s a long time coming.
  • Because I don’t want you to ever feel the sadness and bleakness I felt nearly 10 years ago when so much evil was unleashed on our country and our people.
  • Because I don’t want you to grow up in a world where people become numb to terror threats and accept them as the norm.
  • Because our men and women serving our country have not sacrificed for nothing, and they deserve for every citizen, young and old, to understand the events that have unfolded and just how dangerous and critical their job is.
  • Because we are so fortunate to live in America, and it’s important to understand this and feel the swell of pride that’s flowing through our nation.
  • Because some things take time. Yes, it’s been nearly 10 years since 9-11, but perseverance paid off, and the job has been completed. Work ethic seems to be lacking in this new generation. Instant gratification is seen as a right. Sometimes this is just not possible, or desirable. Sometimes this is not what it takes to get a job done correctly. And it should never be all about what makes YOU happiest or what’s easiest for you.
  • Because God entrusted you three with me, and it’s my job to make sure your eyes and heart are open to what’s happening in the world today. After all, you will play a part, however big or small, in shaping the future.
Image: By Carlos Latuff [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons


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