It’s a week now since we got the announcement from President Obama.
In 20 years, they’ll ask, “Where were you when you heard the news?”
I was in my apartment watching the documentary “Wheel of Time” by Werner Herzog that a friend had lent me.
At 9:46 p.m., Odessa American Editor Laura Dennis sent me a text message.
“bin laden dead plz break news on web and facebook”
I leapt up and ran to my computer in the next room.
Journalism is the pursuit of giving people a greater understanding of the intermediate world, the stuff outside of their own perception and experience. We’re sometimes the source, other times just the conduit.
For the next few hours, I was busy trying to update the OA’s website, Twitter account and Facebook page. For what it’s worth, we were first, locally, retweeting an Associated Press story a couple minutes before our competitors. It isn’t worth much, but maybe some people heard the news from us first, as the Internet exploded.
I don’t have a working cable TV connection, so I knocked on the door of a neighbor and asked him to get me when Obama’s much-delayed speech actually began.
I went back to snatching the latest (as we later learned, often quite inaccurate) write-through from the AP wire until the guy got me.
I sat down in a complete stranger’s home to watch TV with two guys I’d never spoken a word to despite living one door over.
None of us said a word during the speech either: We just watched Obama at the podium say those words we already knew.
“The United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden.”
It doesn’t change anything in a real sense, does it? But it feels good.
Maybe we celebrated too much. But if Arab Muslims went out and danced over the death of George W. Bush, we wouldn’t be too surprised, or have reason for offense. A week later, bin Laden’s death still feels good, and I haven’t reason to apologize for it.
I remember where I was that Sept. 11. My grandfather had to take me to school because my dad couldn’t. Just as we were leaving, I saw on TV that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers. I thought, “How can you not miss a skyscraper?”
I was in ninth grade. Twit that I was, I didn’t really care that a few hundred people had surely died.
When I got to first period at Bonham Junior High, I learned a second plane had hit the World Trade Center, and then we all knew it was intentional, but we didn’t know what was going on, and neither did our teachers.
The rest of the day, nothing happened. We watched the news. We heard about the Pentagon, Flight 93, and kept waiting for more planes to go down. We watched dozens of people unable to stand being cooked alive throw themselves out of windows 100 floors up.
Then the first tower came down, and everyone sort of collectively thought their eyes weren’t working right. Wishful thinking, and all that. Then the other fell. We thought 20,000 people had died. That was the talk at the time.
The one thing we did, other than watch TV and go to lunch, the one thing we in the ninth grade did, was take our class picture.
I still have that photo, a few hundred 13 and 14 year olds standing outside on risers for a panoramic photo. We look scared.
Yes, it still feels good that he’s dead, and I’ll waste no guilt on taking joy in it.