You know, it’s odd. When I originally had the idea to begin this blog, I submitted two items. One was the post that appeared as the first post you saw last week. The other, a snarky essay written about how I took the time to try and stream three different news networks (CNN, Fox News, MSNBC) at once, and came away with finding out that, well, there isn’t a single reliable Internet news source when it comes to actual television.
And then Sunday happened.
My dear friend Mike absent-mindedly clicked on MSNBC.com as he and his girlfriend were over to visit Sunday evening, flippantly blowing through Kanye West vinyl recordings, a desert pizza we all ordered from Papa Johns and a few bottles of wine they brought over as house-warming gifts.
“The president is set to speak sometime after 10:30,” we read. “And he is not revealing what he is going to be speaking about.”
Clicking on everything from CNN, to the Associated Press, back to MSNBC, over to Fox News, and back to a quick Google search, and we still couldn’t find out what it was the president was going to talk about. We all wondered why and we all knew simply turning on the television wasn’t going to provide us an answer. Mike, having worked with me at my previous newspaper, traded barbs with me about how glad we were that we both weren’t in a newsroom when such a statement was revealed, knowing we would have to tear apart the front page for something even us in our cynical mindset didn’t think would be worth anything. Still, though, we knew something was up when we couldn’t initially find out exactly why the president would break in on cable television in the middle of primetime on a Sunday night.
We stuck with msnbc.com for a while, only because it was the only stream that was working. We hovered around a a MacBook Air, investing in the notion that President Obama would speak at any minute. Naturally, enough time passed, and Mr. Obama just wasn’t appearing on the computer screen, so after asking what the NPR affiliate was for his drive back to Harrisburg, Mike took off with Sarah, back to Pennsylvania, back to home.
None of us knew what could have possibly been said. Minutes after he left, it came to my attention that we as a country had found and killed Osama Bin Laden. That was what the president was going to speak about. And that was what we as a nation had been waiting nearly a decade to hear.
So back to the beginning. Why is it odd, you ask? Well, this was a moment in time. Being a part of a generation defined by the actions that took place after Sept. 11, 2001, I felt like we finally accomplished something. I felt like I had to pay attention to whatever cable television channel was streaming on this laptop. And I felt like if this was one of those rare, “this is going to mean something far more than we can even appreciate at this moment in time” instances, I couldn’t ignore it.
Forget your ideology. Please. More than 2,600 people died on 9/11/01. 2,600 people that were as innocent as the people sitting or standing beside you. They died. They died for reasons we mostly don’t understand, reasons we will never be able to justify. Innocence taken in a matter of hours. And it wasn’t unknown innocence. It was the kind of innocence every American — cynical or optimistic, sad or happy, angry or kind — that we all can relate to, regardless of if your preference is Mr. Beck or Mr. Olbermann.
“I’m really glad this man’s evil is off this Earth forever,” a widow was quoted as saying on the NBC coverage I was able to stream online after President Obama made his statements. “Wow. Osama’s dead,” my dear friend Dan text messaged me after the news broke.
It’s a small selection of words that sums up what every American can relate to, regardless of belief. We all feel a little safer now. We all feel a little better about ourselves. We all feel relieved. We all feel vindicated. And most of all, we all feel as though we’ve won a battle — a battle a lot of us weren’t even sure about why we were fighting from the beginning.
Generations have their moments. They have those times. Those instances in which you are able to look around and say, “I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren I was (insert whatever you’d like here) when (whatever you’d like to insert here) happened.” This was one of those moments for me. I didn’t have JFK’s assassination. I didn’t have Pearl Harbor. I didn’t have Vietnam. Hell, I didn’t even have Watergate.
But — and if I may be as presumptuous to speak for a generation for at least a few seconds — I can say that I did know what was it like to be alive, and remember every single detail of what I was doing on Sept. 11, 2011. And now, with fireworks blasting off in the parking lot of my silly little apartment complex in Hagerstown, Maryland, I can say that I remember exactly what it was like to be alive the day the president announced that Osama Bin Laden was captured and what it was like to come to that news by the grace of a simple computer screen.
So, regardless of any preconceptions. Any ideologies. Any arguments. Any divide. Or any passionate tirades. We can all agree that we, as a generation, as a community, as Americans, feel a little bit better about ourselves, right? A little more at ease with the fact that the war we have been waging on and on for years finally has its climax. A little bit better about waking up tomorrow. And, quite possibly most importantly, a little bit better about the fact that we decided to stand up for ourselves during a time that has completely split an entire nation into two.
Forget Republicans. Forget Democrats. Forget the Tea Party. And forget whatever independent political affiliation you may be attached to. We are Americans. And that’s it.