WASHINGTON – By now the nation has begun to amass and process the details of Sunday night’s military attack that killed. Feelings of joy and catharsis led thousands in Washington, New York and even Greek Town at my alma mater, the University of Missouri to take to the streets and express their excitement.
Outside the White House, frankly, it looked like had just upset Clayton in the homecoming game. A crowd of mostly young people cheered “U-S-A!” “Thank you troops!” and “Obama!” while waving American flags, using them as clothing or both.
But even as I shoved through the crowd, reaching my camera high to get that coveted shot, one thought kept crossing my mind.
I really need to text my brother back.
My younger brother David was born on Sept. 11. The Twin Towers fell, the Pentagon was attacked and United 93 crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside on his 12th birthday. I remember my mom bringing home carefully catered plates from Kreis' Steakhouse. We felt too scared to go out and too glued to the TV to go anywhere or do anything. So beyond the deadly, trillion-dollar wars that have left 5,885 dead, the tumultuous changes in national security and the heated and often polarizing rhetoric that rose from the terrorist attacks, 9/11–and bin Laden by proxy–had a personal meaning: It really gave David's day a bad rap.
Sunday night seemed a turning point in that narrative. Strategically, U.S. forces reached an incredible milestone in the international war against al-Qaida. Families, friends and loved ones of 9/11 victims saw an opportunity for some closure. And maybe, just maybe, my family got back a spark of happiness or justice in a day undoubtedly marred in national tragedy.
I finally talked to David on Monday. We talked about our surprise when we heard the news, cracked a few jokes and talked about seeing each other when he graduates college in two weeks. The conversation seemed to encapsulate a lot of what may befall America in the months and years ahead. In a word, no–the war on terror is not over. But we were able to experience a brief, positive unifying moment that can push us forward. The death of bin Laden offers a rare, fleeting opportunity for life without a culture of fear or constant barrage of punditry. It’s a time we can get more valuable work done to enhance our national security, strengthen our image abroad and build a more engaged citizenry.
After moving to Washington, to pursue a career in journalism by way of graduate school, I saw the sparks of that opportunity Sunday night at the White House.
Now, let’s hope it lasts before the next news cycle starts.