Unless you are living in the cave that Osama Bin Laden was supposed to be hiding out in (and wasn’t), you know by now that he is dead. Killed in a firefight by US forces in Pakistan. I don’t feel very Christian or human feeling relieved about someone’s violent death. There are people celebrating in the streets and chants of ‘USA! USA,’ and while I understand the sentiment and I’m very proud of the Seals, I’m not feeling joyous.
I can’t describe all of the different thoughts buzzing through my brain – as it is, I have an endless slideshow of where I was on 9/11, who I talked to, what I wore, what it smelled like, that cloud, the endless news cycle. What is it that I’m feeling mainly? Relief, maybe? I feel sad. That’s the little-kid version, but I can’t think of a better way of saying it. I have a feeling that some sort of justice has been done, but I’m not sure that justice undoes anyone’s losses – the losses that day, the losses in the wars after, the losses that may still occur. I feel relief that this will provide closure, and possibly healing, for a lot of people. But I’m sad, because even with closure, those people aren’t coming back.
I had just turned 25 on 9/11/01. My main worry was trying to make sure that my parents and my friends were all right and phoning my siblings to tell them that everything was alright. I distinctly remember pacing my parents’ house in New Jersey (I had given up on getting back to Brooklyn from my job in NJ), waiting for them to get home, and having them cry when they walked through the door seeing me there. We watched a lot of the television coverage over the next few and I would heave and sob whenever there would be an interview with kids or spouses begging for news of a missing dad or mom or sibling. I couldn’t imagine losing my parents. I needed them there to calm me down. I just wanted to be NEAR them.
I didn’t have any children on 9/11. Ten years later, the day after Bin Laden’s death, I have a stepdaughter and a daughter and another kid on the way. I’m thinking about those same interviews and trying to imagine what it would be like for MG or Zygote if something happened to me or YG. And I’m thinking about all those parents who never got home to their kids. That just about slays me.
MG already asks us about 9/11 a lot, and I’m sure the other kids will too. It seems so odd that an event I can precisely recall nearly minute to minute will be something that they learn about history books, along with Bin Laden’s much-later death. They will ask questions, but they won’t feel it. The same way I know all about where my parents were when Kennedy was shot and where my grandparents were during Pearl Harbor, but I don’t know what it felt like to be them.
We do all the right things. We answer our kids’ questions the best we can, we travel and go to work and live our lives without taking unnecessary risks, we know who we would want to be our kids’ guardians if something happens to us both, but it scares me to even think about that question. After 9/11 , a hypothetical question became a reality for a lot of families. And my answer to ‘who do you want to raise your kids?’ is nobody. Nobody will love or know my kid(s) the way I do. Most of the time I feel like a huge fuck up about this whole parenting thing, but that I know is true.
Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have even considered these things. [Insert standard disclaimer about having kids doesn’t make you more understanding, better, moral, whatever.] I was outraged, angry, and belligerent. But having these small people has changed me and made me fiercely protective. Bin Laden’s death is probably not going to make me or my children any safer, and while I understand the outpouring of emotion in the streets, I’d rather hang with my girl tonight and do some puzzles and eat ice cream. And just be near her.