How my son will never know bin Laden

An adolescence and early adulthood filled with a war on terror.

For millennials, Osama bin Laden defined a decade of their formative years. He was quite literally the face of terrorism. 9/11 is our “remember when” moment. Many of us were in high school or college on that dark day in September and remember vividly when the attacks were tied to bin Laden. And we’ll likely remember where we were when we heard, ten years later, that bin Laden had been killed.

But to my son, bin Laden will be a figure in an historical book. 9/11 will be like our JFK. bin Laden’s death will be a Challenger explosion, here when it happened, but with no memory of it.

Video footage will be available, but he won’t ever know what it “felt” like. How will our children read about this, how will they understand what happened?

Then there’s an older generation of kids that are of age now, but not for 9/11. Today’s 9 and 10 year olds who are asking their parents who bin Laden was and why many are celebrating his death.

But how do we explain this last decade to our children? How do we even explain who we’re ultimately fighting now? And how do we try and explain to our children how this was worth it? When our children are still burdened with our massive debt and deficits, and they see the war on terror as a line item on that receipt, will they think the death of one man was worth it?

I’m watching CNN, my son is sitting on the floor playing with toy cars. A moment he’ll never remember. But one I certainly will.

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3 responses to “How my son will never know bin Laden

  1. I faced a similar predicament this morning as my 5 year old daughter got ready for school. She looked at the TV for a few minutes and asked” Mommy, why are they doing that?” For about 30 seconds I was speechless. I could not form in my mind how to explain to this child that it was OK for “us” to kill someone. To be honest, it brought a tear to my eye. I tried my best to give a brief, understandable to 5 year old ears explanation of the events of 9/11/01. The more I have thought about it throughout the day, I just can’t wrap my head around how to explain to my child that murder can be justified. I think that a lot of us who remember 9/11 vividly have been so wrapped up in seeking “justice” and we have never put any thought into how someone who has no emotional bond to that day might look at the situation. We young parents have to tread cautiously. And to be frank, I really wish my daughter had not even noticed the news this morning and had learned about in a history class later on in life, lol!

  2. There’s a great piece on Time.com today about a very similar subject. As adults we accept and understand the concepts of justice and revenge (at least as much as one can understand them.) But children do not. Be glad Parker is young enough that when he reads about it in school, this will all have taken place years ago-and that you don’t have to answer the difficult questions now.

  3. This is a very sobering way to voice the thoughts that I’ve been having over the previous 24 hours. I teach high school in a low-income area and I’ve been having difficulty explaining to my students, mostly 15 and 16, why I am not celebrating his death. It’s hard to explain to them because I have trouble understanding it myself, but I think it goes something like this:

    The death of this one man is iconic and symbolic, but it doesn’t change anything for the good. Yes, there is one less terrorist out there, but he knew when he started all of this that he was going to be a martyr. This is what he wanted. His death does not topple al Qaeda or even slow it down.

    As a friend of mine told a rather presumptuous bank teller, “If the head of Bank of America were killed today, would you still have a job tomorrow?” There is more terrorism out there.

    And not always in the form we expect.

    I am glad that my daughters are young enough that I don’t have to explain this to them just yet. I get to wait until the fiery passion of the country is cooled a bit.

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