The White House Gathering—I Was There!
The rowdy celebrations following Osama Bin Laden's death have provoked controversy and misquoting. Here's Courtney Guth's insider take. —Sparkitors
Like many Americans, I can recall exactly where I was on September 11th, 2001. It was a Tuesday morning, and I was a little fourth grader sitting in Mrs. Atabek’s classroom waiting for my day to begin. Shortly after class started, an announcement came over the classroom loudspeaker requesting Maxwell to be sent to the office for dismissal. Mrs. Atabek chided Maxwell for failing to inform her that he was leaving so early, but he explained that he didn’t know he was supposed to leave early. That’s how it continued throughout the day. One by one my classmates disappeared without explanation. I found myself feeling left in the dark, confused but somewhat carefree, because I didn't know what was occurring. It wasn’t until my mommy arrived shortly after lunch that I was informed of the horror of what had happened just hours before.
I’ll admit that at nine years old I had a vague and limited understanding of what was occurring in those moments. My mom and I spent the afternoon watching hours of television coverage. Over and over I saw the towers collapse, and I witnessed the destruction of the Pentagon Building less than sixty miles from my home. I knew what had happened was horrible, but I did not fully grasp the effects of the situation at hand and its possible impact on my future. As I grew older, I realized just how defining that morning was.
This brings me to May 1st, 2011. Ten years later and ten years older. Just slightly over half of my life has been spent in the years since 9/11. I’ve grown up in a world of security threats and fluctuating terror levels. As a result, I will now forever remember where I was when I heard the news. At 10:36 PM, I received a text message instructing me to turn on the news because President Obama would be making a special announcement. I quickly turned on the television just in time to hear the anchorman on CNN inform the country that Osama Bin Laden is dead. I sat in shock as I slowly processed the news. The camera then cut to about thirty people rallying in celebration outside of the White House. As I continued to watch the coverage, that number grew and grew, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
Around 12 AM, people at my school began rallying and celebrating outside and across the campus. Many flocked outside because of a sense of patriotism, others because they wanted to be a part of the action. I wanted to be a part of history. 9/11 had defined my generation, and this recent victory was certainly a cause for celebration. I decided my friend and I could do better than a rally through the streets of College Park—we were heading to the White House!
We hopped in her car and sped into the city as quickly as we could. We heard the police were shutting down traffic near the White House, so we parked a few blocks away. Even being a few blocks away, we could already hear the chanting and the celebration. When we arrived, a sea of all things American greeted us. People were decked out in flags, signs, and even Uncle Sam costumes. I spotted one man who had climbed up in a tree sporting a Superman t-shirt and an American flag cape. A few people were actually inside the urn statues across the street. I even found myself hoisted up on a stranger’s shoulders in celebration. Every so often, someone would begin the chant of “USA! USA! USA!!” and all would join in. People were more than willing to talk and reach out to each other and join together to celebrate as one.
The celebration lasted into the wee hours of the morning, and it was still in full swing when I returned home at 3:30 in the morning. Leaving, I felt an overwhelming combination of pride, excitement, and unity. This probably stemmed from my favorite moment of the evening. Standing in the middle of the packed crowd, my friend and I joined in a celebratory rendition of our National Anthem. In that moment I realized that the crowd was not full Republicans or Democrats, heterosexuals or homosexuals, or blacks or whites, but simply truly proud Americans.
How do you feel about the death of Bin Laden, and the celebrations it inspired?