For many college students, the death of Osama bin Laden marks a second turning point in our lives. The first was Sept. 11, 2001.
For many 18- to 22-year olds, last night’s announcement brought an end to something that has been going on for nearly half our lives, completely changing the way we grew up. We have grown up in the shadow of 9/11 and most of us were in our elementary and middle school classrooms when the Twin Towers were hit.
We are old enough to remember the headlines, the flags, the day after. We are part of a generation that has been defined by the question “where were you on Sept. 11?”
Now, if someone asks us ‘where were you when bin Laden was killed?’ the answer will probably be similar.
This is our Cold War.
We grew up knowing bin Laden’s name almost as well as our president’s. Our geography bees revolved around the Middle East. Our degrees are in international relations. Our lives changed forever at 8:45 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001. On May 1, 2011, we were holed up in libraries, classrooms and dorms across the country studying for those international relations exams, when we heard via Twitter, Facebook or perhaps even word-of-mouth, that the man behind the worst tragedy in American history was dead.
But our campuses quickly emptied
In Washington, D.C., my friends and I took to the streets and headed for the White House. Driving up and down with horns blaring and music blasting, hundreds swarmed Pennsylvania Avenue bearing flags, signs and sparklers to celebrate with us.
We grabbed our cameras and iPhones, hoping to share in this collective memory on Facebook and Twitter later. We jumped out of the car, running toward the White House as our peers from across the District, Maryland and Virginia joined us, a huge throng on Pennsylvania Avenue.We chanted, we sang, we screamed as young men scaled a light post a few feet away, draping an American flag across the top.
We celebrated, for tonight was our night.
But we weren’t the only ones.
But the day after, this time around?
This time, the hallways of our libraries and classrooms and dorms won’t be silent. This time, students won’t be absent during roll call because their parents or relatives are missing. Our lives have changed once again.
But this time? For the better.
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