Editor’s Note: BRsq, after the coverage had slightly calmed down, wanted to know from high school students and those in high school during 9/11 what Osama bin Laden’s death meant to them.
For many, Osama bin Laden represented the fear America lived in for almost ten years following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. When he was killed on May 2, 2011, Americans breathed a simple sigh of relief and some took to the streets in celebration.
Some were outraged that America was celebrating the terrorist’s death. Others demanded to see proof while U.S. forces buried his body at sea.
After years of investigating the whereabouts of bin Laden, officials pinpointed his location to a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. President Barack Obama launched an attack on the location.
“A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability,” Obama said when he addressed Americans May 2. “After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.”
Jason Wicker, 25, a junior at McKinley Senior High School during 9/11, said Osama’s capture would have meant more to him nine years ago. America will be be more cautious when the tenth anniversary of 9/11 comes this year though, he said.
Wicker said groups that supported bin Laden may be empowered by the way the Al Qaeda leader was killed.
“I think a lot of people are going to label him as a martyr because he wanted to die in gunfire,” he said. “Now that we gave him that opportunity rather than bringing him to justice, it’s going to be symbolic to a lot of the people we’re fighting against.”
He said Americans’ celebrations for bin Laden’s murder is hypocritical.
“That’s doing the exact same thing you’re labeling them as doing,” he said.
Derek Gordon, 26, also a junior at McKinley during the 9/11 attacks, said American celebration is warranted, but people should be careful about drawing it out so they do not agitate terrorist groups further.
“I think we have to be proud of what we’ve accomplished but try not overdo it in the media or our own celebrations,” he said. “I think that’s part of the thing the rest of the world doesn’t like about Americans is when we flaunt our success in other peoples’ faces.”
Like many other Americans, Gordon thought 9/11 was an accident when the first plane hit the North Tower, but he soon found out how serious the situation was when the three crashes followed.
“It was just a day of really not knowing what was going on and what was happening next because at that point we didn’t even know who it was that was attacking us or what the motives were,” he said.
He said Americans discovered they were not untouchable and to be careful about dealing with world cultures.
“I don’t think we truly grasped as Americans how much other places in the world resented us,” he said. “Now we’re much more sensitive to the rest of the world’s problems.”
Current high school students were in elementary school during the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Many did not know of the dramatic events until they got home to their families, watching the footage run constantly on the television for weeks.
Hoover High School senior Alexa Costi, 19, was diligently studying for a psychology exam the next day when her father told her the president was going to make an announcement about bin Laden’s death.
“I wasn’t shocked,” she said. “It didn’t mean that much to me considering I thought he was dead for years.”
She said she remembers the Sept. 11 attacks vividly, but she was appalled at the crowds celebrating bin Laden’s death.
“Murder is murder no matter who the person is,” she said. “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
Bin Laden was the founder of the terrorist organization Al Qaeda. Nineteen terrorists from the organization hijacked four passenger airplanes on Sept. 11., intentionally crashing them into both buildings of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. One hijacked plane went down in a field in Pennsylvania. The attacks killed nearly 3,000 people.
Sophomore at McKinley Jonah Long, 15, said bin Laden’s death didn’t bother him.
“I believe it was right to kill him,” he said. “He deserved it.”
McKinley sophomore Alondra Kimbrough, 15, also said bin Laden’s death doesn’t affect her, but, overall, it’s good for the U.S..
“I feel like him being dead is almost a relief,” she said. “We won’t have to have our troops looking for him in Afghanistan.”
Others are more concerned about the lack of evidence.
McKinley junior Devonte Taylor, 17, said he needs evidence bin Laden is gone.
“I feel that he isn’t dead,” he said. “We haven’t seen the body yet.”
Obama refused to release images of bin Laden’s body, saying they were too graphic and could heighten tensions with the Middle East.
Al Qaeda publicly acknowledged that bin Laden is dead on the group’s websites. Pakistani newspapers reported they named Saif al-Adel, an Egyptian soldier, their temporary leader this week. Along with acknowledging bin Laden’s death, the terrorists vowed to revenge it by continuing attacks on America.
Maranda Shrewsberry and Sage Bruckner contributed to this story.