Bin Laden, I do not weep for you.
But tears do come to my eyes when I see crowds of cheering, jeering people roaming the streets of D.C. and New York City. I don’t think it wise or good to celebrate the death of any human (or animal, or tree, for that matter), no matter how evil. It seems like cursing oneself. Vengeance, I want to say, belongs to the Lord. Judge not, I want to say, that ye shall not be judged. It’s odd for me to turn to Bible quotes, but there is something elemental about all this.
Beloved New York, so harmed, so damaged. We turn to anger when we are maimed, and bin Laden hurt us badly.
I remember 9/11 with as much clarity as the sky exhibited that day. It struck us all as horrifying how the beauty of the weather contrasted with the destruction we saw on TV, with the smoke billowing into the blue, blue heavens. I was new to Lewisburg, my cable wasn’t connected yet, and I sat in my new neighbor’s bedroom and watched it unfold on the only tiny TV she had.
Then I went to campus and found that the father of one of my students was most certainly dead at the World Trade Center (he was) and that the brother of another might be (he wasn’t, only missing for two days). My student whose hometown was Shanksville came in pale and trembling and said he was headed home to his parents. I told him that it might be better to stay put and call instead. We all had people in New York that we couldn’t reach, but the phones were still working in Shanksville.
There was no shortage of tears that day. Sorrow had not turned yet to anger.
I sent my students out to write about the day, to take a close look around at everything that had already begun to change. “It will be different after this,” I told them, “and even though it has already changed, we are closer to how it’s been now than we will be again. Write it down to remember how it was before.” It gave them something to do.
“Peace,” Edna St. Vincent Millay once wrote, “is the temporary, beautiful ignorance that war somewhere progresses.”