I remember going for my usual morning run. It was warm out, and the streets were relatively quiet — almost too quiet, I thought.
Nevertheless, I didn’t put much weight in the lack of activity. I had just moved to Glendale, and it was early, so what did I really know or care about the comings and goings of my neighbors? As I kept pace, I played through the rest of my morning rituals. Cool down. Help get the kids ready for school. Shower. Drive to work. Ho hum.
I opened the door to my new house on Mountain Street. It was relatively quiet. I got a glass of water. Then I turned on the TV. For a moment, I couldn’t quite grasp what I was seeing. A skyscraper in New York was on fire. The sound on the TV was muted.
Then I read the onscreen graphics. A plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Just as I was turning up the volume I saw another plane roar into frame. What the hell was going on?
For a moment I was frozen. Then my mind caught up. I started screaming. It was a gut reaction that frightened my wife and kids, who immediately rushed downstairs to see what had happened. They were also in the middle of their usual routine. We had never heard of Osama bin Laden. If we did, it wasn’t with any real concern that he would gnaw his way into our life. Some days you never forget.
Nearly 10 years later on Sunday, I was on the sofa channel surfing and gathering a stack of papers when I heard screaming from the kitchen. The first part was inaudible, but the second part was, “…dead! They shot him!”
When you hear screaming followed by the second half of a sentence like that, the first thoughts that come to mind are not particularly good. Who was shot? It’s Sunday night.
For a moment I flashed back to my run on the morning of 9/11 — the last moment before things changed. I wondered if this would be one of those times when I look back at the interval between the bliss of ignorance and the pain of knowledge?
“Osama bin Laden is dead,” my girlfriend and her son shouted in unison as they rushed into the den.
Like that summer morning almost 10 years ago, it took my mind a moment to catch up. I quickly turned the news on and heard the report that confirmed bin Laden was no longer taking up space on this planet. Feelings of vindication began to rise up in me.
“We got him! Finally! He can go to his 100 virgins in heaven where, if there is any justice, they will marry him, divorce him and then spend eternity blaming him for everything,” I thought. If there truly is justice, bin Laden will spend eternity locked in the hell that is family court.
My Facebook page exploded with rallying cries and jokes about bin Laden’s personal lifestyle choices, to put it mildly. While some questioned whether it was morally right to be so overjoyed at someone’s death, no one said the jokes and insults were inappropriate or “too soon,” as is often the case when the famous meet their maker.
Now it is the morning after. And as I scan 39 headlines from papers all over the country thanks to the convenience of the Huffington Post, I wonder what will really happen as a result of us killing this one large rat?
I’m not questioning whether he deserved it or if we should have pursued him for nearly a decade. That two-legged vermin had to go, and we all have the right to feel a sense of relief and satisfaction as a result. We have paid dearly in our pursuit of this scourge, and many have died at his hands and in our quest to bring him to justice.
That said, my biggest hope is that the news of bin Laden’s death does not inspire more twisted, charismatic souls to rise up and lead others in their quest to harm others who do not adhere to their beliefs.
Racism and hatred for others is not something you are born with; it is something you learn from those around you. Frankly, what causes people to be bonded by such insecurities is something I do not understand and never will. History has repeated itself many times over with a plethora of leaders bent on inflicting pain and suffering upon those whom they perceive as inferior.
As we find satisfaction in the death of someone who was so focused on hate, maybe it’s time to wonder how many more bin Ladens will exist before mankind learns that not respecting one another’s differences only leads to mass conflict and, quite often, a violent end.
GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.