I was in fifth grade on 9/11. Osama bin Laden was my generation's bogeyman, the elusive and mysterious cause of our rapid decline in the Bush years. So when the president interrupted Celebrity Apprentice to announce the terrorist's demise, I responded with a fist pump and a hoot of “We got 'im!”
But as I wandered down to Ground Zero at 2 AM, I began to question my gleeful reaction to the violent death of a single human being. What had we accomplished? Was it really justice? I was still torn by the intense need for an expression of catharsis, for some celebration of what would be the closest thing to "victory" we would ever see in the "War on Terror." At the intersection of Church and Vesey, I found hundreds of fellow Americans gathered together spontaneously. They all seemed to exist with me on the same spectrum – between tight-lipped circumspection and beer-soaked euphoria. Laws governing public conduct were suspended under the extraordinary circumstances. The air was fraught with a sense of collective identity, tinged with confusion and contradiction, crassness and solemnity.