Dancing in the Streets

Taking off from LaGuardia airport in NYC last Sunday on a brilliantly clear morning was breathtaking.

The sun was just coming up over Manhattan and I could see the entire island. I landed on a foggy night five days prior and this extraordinary view gave me a first-hand look of the entire New York skyline for the first time since 9-11-01.

My job in the corporate world took me to NYC frequently back in the early 1990s, but I hadn’t been back since 9-11. Working for one of the largest banks in the country at the time and spending time in the financial district gave me an upclose appreciation of the symbols the WTC represented.

Of course, I have seen photos and film of the skyline without the Twin Towers, but it’s nothing like seeing it first hand.

As I surveyed the skyline early last Sunday, seeing the sun just beginning to catch parts of the city in its shine, I thought of 9-11 and how brilliantly clear that morning began as well.

I thought of just a few of the thousands of stories of the lives lost: Unsent wedding invitations for a wedding that would never be lying in the  rubble, the children who lost one or more parents – some before they were even born, the woman who committed suicide in her country home that Christmas because the love of her life perished in the WTC just months before they were to start a new phase of their lives as retirees.

Even with those stories running through my mind, I still could not grasp the hole in the skyline.

I started to turn to the nice young man sitting next to me and tell him this. He is a New York native who had been studying in Dallas the past few years to become a rabbi.

I decided better of it. As a New Yorker, a young one at that, he, like many other New Yorkers have surely grown more accustomed to the skyline without the World Trade Center. He may not even be able to remember a skyline with them in it. He surely couldn’t know how I felt nearly 10 years later, still trying to grasp the concept of the tragedy.

And so, I watched the New York skyline grow smaller and smaller as we made our ascent. My silent tribute to the lives lost in the air and in the buildings.

Dale and I heard of Osama bin Laden’s death here at Our Little House the next morning. While we both felt justice had been done and a principle threat to our country and its people eliminated, we were not joyful.

As part of my job as a correspondent for Radio New Zeland, I was asked in an interview last night how we, as Midwesterners feel about Osama bin Laden’s death.

A quote attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr., went viral on the Internet and although later it was determined to be nothing he ever said, it still embodies our thoughts:

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

When I saw Americans dancing in the streets of NYC and Washington D.C. at the news of bin Laden’s death, I thought back of a very young man from the Middle East who was  dancing with thousands in the streets in his country in the days following 9-11.

He was cheering and holding the iconic photo of the second plane hitting the WTC. An American reporter then showed him footage of people jumping from the windows to escape the flames engulfing the towers. The reporter told him that these were civilians, not soldiers. They were mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers who were only trying to live their lives. Now, in that footage, they were deciding how they would die. The Middle Eastern man stood frozen, his smile disappeared and he looked solemn. “I didn’t realize this,” he said.

It appeared that a small link had been removed from the circle of hate.

While Osama bin Laden was certainly not an innocent civilian and I can see the need for the families of those lost to have justice and for a country to remove from the world those who set out to do us harm, I couldn’t help but feel that joyful celebration will only bring us more misery.

Returning hate for hate, multiplies hate….

It’s the Law of Attraction.

What do you think??

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27 Responses

  1. Kristen says:

    I’ve had so many conflicting thoughts about the dancing in the streets too. My husband was on a train going into NYC when the towers were hit; our local FD lost more than one and one of our town council members was lost that day too. For me, OBL’s death brings a sense of closure. My guess is for those dancing in the streets it was an overflowing of that emotion too perhaps?

    • Kerri says:

      That could be, Kristen. I know there wasn’t someone who didn’t know someone who was there or who lost their life that day, even if you weren’t a New Yorker. I think I’ve read of at least 2 people from our small town in Arkansas who died there and a nephew of a columnist I used to work with at the KC Star was also in the towers that day. I’ve cried a thousand tears at each of those stories, I haven’t even ever been able to watch any of the movies and few of the documentaries about 9-11. I just cannot find the same emotion to celebrate OBL death, no matter how warranted it is.

  2. Yes, definitely a controversial post. As one of the New Yorkers who was supposed to be down at the WTC that day in 2001, this is a topic that I’ve thought about a lot over these past many years. OBL’s death doesn’t make us any safer, I’m sure. And I certainly was not jumping for joy in the streets when I heard the news. But, though someone will take his place soon enough, it was good to know that he’s gone.

  3. Sheryl says:

    The dancing was a bit off-putting, perhaps. But I think it signified ten years worth of frustration and fear, and was a release that finally some of that fear could be put to rest, at least for the time being. It’s been a very long time since Americans had anything to celebrate. To me it was more symbolic than it was aimed at rejoicing over the death of someone.

  4. Frugal Kiwi says:

    I understand why the people of New York and the US are glad that OBL is dead. I don’t understand dancing in the street at the death of any human being, even him. I didn’t understand dancing in the street in other parts of the world at the death of Americans in the Twin Towers.

    Perhaps the world will be a safer place now, perhaps not. Only time will tell.

    • Kerri says:

      Exactly, Frugal. We can all justify our actions after judging someone elses. I, too, remember being horrified that some in the Middle East were rejoicing at the tragic loss of life of 9-11. I don’t think this war on terror is anything for either side to celebrate.

  5. Kerry says:

    What might happen in the world if the time, energy, effort, money, and will that was spent on killing bin Laden had been spent on will, effort, creativity, and education toward peaceful means of resolving conflicts? That’s a hard discipline and rarely an easy choice. It takes just as much will and insight and creativity as military action.

    • Kerri says:

      I agree, Kerry. It’s clear that neither the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq aided us in this effort. He wasn’t found in either country, but instead in a country that receives from us $1 BILLION in aid ANNUALLY. What makes me most sick though, are the lives lost and destroyed by this effort. The soldiers and their families who were collateral damage.

  6. Jane Boursaw says:

    I just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of dancing in the streets. It’s a mixed bag of emotions, that’s for sure. I get that people are rejoicing over the death of bin Laden because he’s caused so much evil in the world. Still… nothing about the events is right – from the original terrorist attacks to the dancing in the streets. It’s all very sad…

  7. When I saw this post I knew it was going to be controversial. When I saw this on tv, I felt much the same way. The whole thing is filled with too much hate and sadness for me to feel that celebrating is the right thing to do. I’m glad he’s dead. But I don’t think celebrating is the answer somehow.

  8. mat says:

    I find it interesting that humans believe that they’re something more than animals. Yes, we’re bright. Yes, we’re creative. Yes, we’re able to manipulate our surroundings unlike any other animal. But make no mistake: we are smart monkeys in pants. We sure like to fool ourselves, though. Humans can accomplish amazing feats of creation and destruction, and there are consequences for all of it.
    People say they’re conflicted in their feelings about what’s happened with OBL, but what they’re really feeling is the “I’m-above-this” part of their mind at war with their gut, their instincts. They say, “I shouldn’t feel this way, but…”. Look. It’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to feel some shameful joy. It’s in our nature. The man got what he deserved. I’m not saying we should celebrate his death, but I am saying that we should allow ourselves to feel some satisfaction–should that be what we’re feeling.

    • kerri says:

      Thanks Mat, for chiming in. This is a complicated issue that brings on even more complicated feelings, I think. I do not know anyone who doesn’t feel some level of satisfaction over OBL’s death. Hell, I was reading a story last night about some sicko who beat his girlfriend’s 3 innocent dogs to death while their heads were covered so they couldn’t fight back and I really wanted to see this guy suffer for what he did…and I know I would feel the same if it were my family (that includes my dogs). I think jubilant celebration is appropriate say, at the END of a war, because at least people are celebrating the end of violence. Somehow, though, cheering and dancing over someone’s death, especially when it will not end the violence, just seems wrong to me. But I respect everyone’s right to their own feelings about it.

      • mat says:

        Absolutely–celebrate when the killing and dying is DONE. But I think you’re allowed a smile and a cleansing exhale when you hear about OBL dying.
        I know some people have issues with “judging” other people, but even a child knows good from bad, right from wrong, justice from cruelty. Society and…other organized groups just seem to muddy the waters on what should be clear-cut situations.

  9. phillis Godwin says:

    Was I dancing in the streets because they killed bin Lauden, I was setting in my living room in my pj’s cheering and clapping. He chose to kill those people on 9-11. There has to be consequences for doing evil. As long as he was alive he was a threat for killing more innocent people. Will there be more violence in his name now that he is dead? Anyone can choose to kill innocent people and use that for an excuse.

    Why would we live in fear because something worse will happen if we kill a MONSTER because that’s what he was. Our country is at was with Al Quaida now with our soldiers dying daily. There was so choice but to kill him.

    The thing that I worry about is our souls, where do we choose to spend eternity? I do not believe he is in heaven, as I saw no sign of repentance. He was planning more violence. The thing I keep telling myself is he chose where he would spend eternity.

    If one of my loved ones had died on 9-11, I would have been rejoicing, why not rejoice for my neighbor whose family member was.

    NOW let me tell you what it’s like from a victim’s side. I was brutally, violently RAPED. I fought him, I called the police, I testified in front of family and friends telling every gory detail. I didn’t set back and let it happen and think “If I don’t take action he will never, ever do it again. AS LONG AS HE WAS ALIVE, He TRIED TO FIND ME. This time he would have killed me. I knew because I was there. I NEVER had any freedom until I was told HE WAS DEAD. Did his death change all the years of fear and horror I was living in? NO, but I knew he would never RAPE again.

    So, if you drive by my home and see me dancing in the street, you never know it could be because bin Laden is dead an will NEVER EVER kill again.

    • kerri says:

      First, let me make this clear: I have no sympathy for bin Laden. But I think the point that Olivia brings up is one of the ones I was trying to make – Has this man’s death made the world a safer place? In the case of your rape, Phillis, it was one man, he was not the leader of a world wide gang of terrorists. There was no one to replace him in his quest to hurt you. In bin Laden’s case, there are plenty ready to take his place and make their mark against the west. And his death brings on more questions: What do we do as a country, continue cutting off the head of the next snake and so on and so on for eternity? Isn’t the thousands of years of violence in that region one of the things that we Westerners believes sets us apart? Isn’t joining in (in the killing and in the celebrations) just lowering ourselves to their level? And let’s be clear about the real purpose for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which had little to do with seeking justice and more to do with quenching America’s unending thirst for black gold. bin Laden did not put us into those wars, Bush did, and look where it has gotten us. I ask again, has America being involved there made our world a safer place? Of course not. My question of killing bin Laden didn’t come from one of fear of retribution as much as it did the fact that the circle of hate continues. They hit us, we hit them. They hit us, we hit them. Your religious beliefs obviously hold you in the an “eye for an eye” camp, while my spiritual beliefs makes me know that there is evidence to support the “hate begets hate” theory talked so much about in the Bible. I have faith in the fact that whatever lies beyond this world, we will have to face what actions we took in this life, whether “justice” is dealt here or not. The ultimate justice is found in the next life, not in this one and we should only be concerned with what energy we’re sending or perpetuating in the world. Again, if someone touched a hair on my family’s head, I would want retribution, but that doesn’t make it right in my mind. I guess I would have at least liked to have seen a trial and due process, although I don’t really think that would have made the world any safer either. I’m glad you found solace in the fact that your attacker is dead, you’re the first victim I’ve ever spoken to that felt peace after the criminal was dead. The families of the 9-11 victims I have seen interviewed were not the ones celebrating, as they know nothing will ever bring their loved ones back. And I think that most of them also know that bin Laden’s fate at the hands of the U.S. will not make anyone elses’ loved ones any safer either.

  10. Olivia says:

    As a Canadian I guess I have a different perspective on a lot of this but that is not to say that the tragedy of 9-11 did not affect me deeply. Terrorism of any kind is damaging to all of humanity and I will never forget that morning, the horror of all those images and the mind-numbing shock of the following days. I was alone here and I have never felt so alone in my life.

    That said, I cannot celebrate a killing: maybe it’s just my religious beliefs. And I also have difficulty with the word “justice” here . . .

    I wish I believed that the world is a safer place now – but I don’t. Unfortunately, it seems, there will always be hatred and killing. I don’t know why.

    I am glad that Obama isn’t releasing the photos – who even WANTS to look at that? I don’t want any more ugly and brutal images in my brain than are already there.

    All of this just makes me unbearably sad.

    • kerri says:

      You bring up some good points, Olivia. I find myself surprisingly deeply conflicted about this. I know what this man orchestrated. 9-11 affected me so deeply, as I suspect it did most people. The sheer waste of human life and property lost and for what? I’ve always been against the death penalty, simply because I don’t feel that justice = retribution. As well, the scientific side of my brain knows studies suggest that the death penalty does not deter people from committing capital offenses. However, I know in my heart that if someone killed my loved one, I would want them to pay the ultimate price and see it carried out. That doesn’t make it right, I think it just makes me human. But does killing anyone who has killed make the world a safer place? I don’t think so and maybe that’s the question we should ask before doing it.

  11. While I find the idea of celebrating the killing of any human being disturbing, I also understand the pent up frustration of people who felt bin Laden had gotten away with the cold blooded murder of 3000 innocent Americans, for ten long years. I guess I can forgive those who took to dancing in the streets over the news, though it’s not something I would take part in.

    I agree that this news will initially stir up more violence, but still believe it was the right thing to do. If nothing else, Al Quaida has been sent a message that those who attack America and kill innocent people will be held accountable for their actions, no matter how long it takes and no matter where they hide, they will be found and justice will be served. I appreciate the president’s decision to withhold photos of bin Laden’s body, in order to keep from inflaming the situation further and causing even more hostility towards America, by his followers.

    As for the money being sent to Pakistan, I have a feeling those funds are very much a part of the discussion right now with Pakistani leaders, over giving the U.S. access to bin Laden’s two wives who lived in the compound with him. They are refusing to do so, but losing a billion dollars a year in aid is powerful motivation to cooperate with U.S. intelligence agencies.

    The sad truth is of course, that nothing will bring back those killed on 9/11 and their families will continue to grieve and mourn their lost loved ones. At least though, they know that the man responsible at last met with justice for his murderous acts.

    • kerri says:

      I can also understand the spontaneous jubilation of people knowing that this monster had finally paid for the innocent lives lost on 9-11. I also felt America did what it had to do. I mean, if we took him captive, what would we do with him. As for him being unarmed, I told Radio New Zeland I know of no one this bothered. It didn’t bother him to have killed a child on a plane on her way to Disney World or any of the other unarmed victims on that day. Still, there is a part of me that believes we should be better. There should due process. As someone wrote on my FB page this morning, “We pride ourselves on due process, and I hate to think we leave our principles behind when we’re attacked, as that’s when our principles are truly tested.”

  12. Alexandra says:

    So much to say on this one … In two words, I agree. I understand why President Obama made this choice, although it must not have been an easy decision to make. I admire him in a strange way, for making it.

    10 years have passed since the horror of that incredibly beautiful day. I remember being glad my dad had passed away the year before, because he believed in America so strongly, his second home after revolution caused him to leave Russia as a child, and he was a peaceful man who eschewed violence. I wish we had not lost John Lennon, reminding the world to make peace, not war, and that some other young celebrity would take up the mantle. Did you read what Noam Chomsky had to say? Not sure if I can link to the article but I’ll try: http://bit.ly/jblvxV

    • kerri says:

      Thanks for that link, Alexandra. Interesting take and while I agree with President Obama’s decision, I agree that it will only inspire more hatred toward the U.S. My mother was the one who called me that morning and told me of the first plane hitting the WTC. It was an equally lovely morning in Kansas City and I was at the barn feeding my horses. I remember telling her that it surely was an accident. Little how we both knew at that moment how that day would change America forever.
      The thing that angers me about Pakistan is that they would not even have the quality of life they do have without our $1 billion in aid we send each year. I’m not quite sure the purpose of this type of spending when our lawmakers are cutting programs that benefit the poor and working poor here. If we’re trying to buy their love, it’s not working and it looks to me as if our money would be better spent elsewhere.