Previous Next

Ground Zero celebration. Image: Brian KuslerFeature image: NYCMarines

After witnessing the celebrations post news of Osama bin Laden’s death, we ask: what exactly are people cheering?

YOU CAN CHEER if you want.

“The word ‘closure’ is often used at a time like this, when talking about the loss of a family member, and I suppose that is the way for sympathetic people to show their concern. . . . For me, that pain is as strong as ever. There is never ‘closure.’”

–Peter Gadiel, father of 23 year-old son killed on 9/11

The question is what are you cheering?

Are you cheering because you think the world is now a safer place?

Are you cheering for someone you loved who was killed on 9/11?

Are you cheering because this brings closure?

Are you cheering someone you loved who wasn’t killed on 9/11, but some other time, some other war?

Are you cheering someone who wasn’t killed but came back altered somehow?

“I think this is the first miracle of Pope John Paul the 2nd.”

–Alan García, President of Peru on Osama bin Laden’s death the day after John Paul the 2nd’s beatification

Are you cheering God?

Are you cheering someone who didn’t fight in any war but just did his work or raised her family, and is someone you think of when you think “a good person”?

Are you cheering good overcoming evil?

Are you cheering because you think al Qaeda is damaged?

“. . . what is important is a mass uprising and awakening by millions of Muslim Arabs to get rid of dictators.”

–Robert Fisk, veteran journalist who interviewed Osama bin Laden 3 times, on the irrelevance of bin Laden’s death

Are you cheering because this changes the “Arab world?”

Are you cheering because it’s easier when there’s a common enemy?

Are you cheering because we have one less enemy?

Are you only pretending to be cheering?

Is it the president’s words you’re cheering?

Is it his delivery?

“I think we can all agree this is a good day for America.”

–President Obama on death of bin Laden

Are you cheering the person who wrote the words?

Are you cheering the soldiers who fired the shots?

Are you cheering their parents?

Are you cheering all the instructors through the years that taught them how to shoot?

Is it the helicopter pilots you’re cheering?

The technicians who put fuel in the helicopters?

The people who worked in the refineries that produced the fuel?

The factory workers who made the bullets?

The engineers who designed the satellites?

The developers of the imaging software that allowed us to gather intelligence?

The interrogators at Guantanamo?

The intelligence operatives monitoring phone calls?

Was it just the fact that the we live in a country with the power and technology and soldiers that could accomplish this?

Was some of the cheering just for the idea that maybe we’re the only country that could do this?

“One of the dead was Osama bin Laden, done in by a double tap — boom, boom — to the left side of his face.”

–Marc Ambinder describing the SEALS’ raid on Osama bin Laden

That we did this alone?

That it could happen–and be described–like something from a movie?

Are you cheering as a form of payback for those cheering around US soldiers’ and defense contractors’ bodies strung up in Fallujah?

“If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I’d really be interested in hearing about it.”

–Ward Churchill on 9/11 victims

For Daniel Pearl?

Are you cheering because you remember people blaming 9/11 victims?

Are you cheering because some moments aren’t meant to be politicized or analyzed and you just have to cheer?

Is part of what you’re cheering that you never really understood Osama bin Laden’s life or his family’s connections with the US, and that it’s all just too complicated and easier now that he’s gone, that this is over?

“[i]n the frenzied days after Sept. 11, 2001, when some flights were still grounded, dozens of well-connected Saudis, including relatives of Osama bin Laden, managed to leave the United States on specially chartered flights.”

report from New York Times

Are you cheering just because the moment feels safe and protected and unified with those around you?

Is it something you just feel in that moment, at that place, and it’s impossible to understand unless you were there (although easy to question if you weren’t)?

What is it, exactly, you’re cheering?

Culture + Religion


About The Author

David Miller

David Miller is Senior Editor of Matador (winner of 2010 and 2011 Lowell Thomas awards for travel journalism) and Director of Curricula at MatadorU. Follow him @dahveed_miller.

  • Daniel Nahabedian

    I don’t see any difference between Americans cheering the death of Osama and anti-US celebrating crowds in some Arab countries.
    It’s called ‘barbarism’ when they celebrate and yet it’s called ‘celebrating freedom’ when Americans do the same?

    • Paddy

      Very much agree Dan. It has definitely been an interesting time to be visiting the States…When I tried to vocalize this to a few people over the weekend, I was warned not to state these opinions out loud again. You can imagine my reaction to that. On the other hand, I was also pleasantly surprised how many of my friends in New York agreed with my distaste in the cheering/celebration.

    • Tim

      Celebrating an intentional massacre of innocents is called ‘barbarism’. Celebrating the world being free of a well-known terrorist is called ‘celebrating freedom’. You may not be able to discern much between the way people celebrate, but it’s what they are celebrating that matters.

  • Jason Wire

    “The face of the Arab world in America’s eyes for too long has been bin Laden, and now it is not. Now the face is only the young people in Egypt, and Tunisia, and all the Middle Eastern countries in the world where freedom rises up. Al-Qaeda’s opportunity is gone,” said John Stewart on yesterday’s Daily Show.

    If this proves to be true, if this means we can finally move on from the tragedy that kept us from harboring any progressive view of the middle east, then I think that’s something to cheer about.

    I think that the fact Osama was killed so much longer after 9/11 is why there’s such a cheerfest. I had no idea who he was before, and if he’d been killed or captured shortly after 9/11, it’d make headlines, but it probably wouldn’t fill city squares. He became something far different from any ordinary enemy; there was never any question of ‘political action’ to be taken with ‘terrorists like bin laden’ because he was viewed as something only to be engaged with militarily–not the way we might deal with Kim Jong Ill, Robert Mugabe, or even Saddam Hussein.

    He became an enemy with a face that we just couldn’t “beat” (kill)–like an unbeatable boss in a videogame . And like the toughest bosses, all that follows in our minds is a credit roll and a feeling of ‘alright, what’s next’? But this is real, and unlike a videogame, we actually have an opportunity to make his death meaningful for a reason other than vengeance–by getting vulnerable and allowing ourselves to change our perspective.

  • Drew

    Isn’t this a travel website?

    • David Miller

      define ‘travel website’.

      • Drew

        A website that talks about issues related to travel in some form.

        • David Miller

          define ‘travel’.

          • Drew

            I guess if I have to define travel to a senior editor at the site, the answer to my first question is no:)

          • David Miller

            sweet rhetoric drew, but i’m genuinely interested in your definition of travel.

            i feel like mass numbers of ppl celebrating at ground zero, the white house, and other places around the country (world?) is relevant to ‘travel’ both in the sense of ppl literally traveling from A-B, but more importantly in the context of cultural implications, our relationship to place.

            examining, questioning, trying to figure out the relationship between people and place has been at the core of matador since the beginning.

    • http://n/a mike kenny

      yeah, bit of a tardy reply,…been busy, you know how it is…”travel site”, eh?…when some particular North Americans are advised to and then very clearly make the effort to travel abroad in such a way as to identify themselves as a member of a North American nation they are not even a citizen of for purposes of making their travel less difficult, perhaps even, say, safer….well, then, yeah, a “travel” site should discuss the fact that images being broadcast, freely, worldwide are not being labeled barbaric only because on the latitude and longitude from which they originate and the familiar language being used. If I want to die while traveling I want to do it by-passing the guards on the El Camino del Rey. I’ve no interest in having my brain aerated with 7.62mm holes because some North African bumpkin who is allowed by law, even though occupied by a foreign military [with whom you might be familiar] to have one assault rifle in each of their residences, thought I was the jack-ass on the light standard in Times Square. Travel, safe, smart, travel.

  • Alice

    What i think shocked me the most wasnt the revelation he was dead after such a long man-hunt, evidently that was inevitable, but the number of celebrations held around the world by people from varying backgrounds and different levels of previous interest in the topic. This is what has been playing at the back of my mind since I heard. Thank you for voicing your opinion in such a succinct and diplomatic post, I’m sure there are many other who also share your stance…

    • David Miller

      thanks alice.

      i appreciate your kind words.

      i’m just trying to figure things out.

      i feel very removed (i live in patagonia) from these celebrations.

      what seems strange to me isn’t that ppl celebrate or that the celebrations alienate ppl (or even that commentary about the celebrations alienate ppl), but that the act of looking inward – not just within ourselves, our national ‘psyche’ – but literally into our own systems, security, committees, recommendations (check Peter Gabiel’s comments about federal officials failing to follow the Gore commission’s recommendations on airline security, etc.) – always seems to be ‘trumped’ by looking outward.

      hugely complex issues and histories get reduced to symbols (i.e. the TSA groping ppl as symbolic of ‘modern america’ or ‘one of osama bin laden’s ‘victories’).

      everything becomes binary, right or wrong.

      a travel website or some other kind of website.

      this or that.

  • Bard

    Americans are always inextricably offended when the intelligence of certain Americans is called into question but when things like this happen how can you defend your countrymen against accusations of stupidity.

    “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster”. No truer words were ever spoken.

    On the one hand you have some dead terrorist that is resposible for many deaths and on the other hand you have a wrinkly old white man that was responsible for a million deaths and he is referred to as “Mr Ex-President”.

    If the glove fits then there can be no argument. A lot of the people in the US are stupid beyond reproach and there is no way around that, there is no defending that. It is painfully obvious. I suppose that is a part of the reason why the sinking ship sinks.

    At the end of the day if you are going to punish a man for killing others I say the real terrorist is still alive and he is called George Bush.

    • David Miller

      not sure i fully understand.

      how can you defend your countrymen against accusations of stupidity

      i didn’t feel like i was ‘defending’ anyone.

      • Bard

        That wasn’t aimed at you I was just making a point that when somebody says something they usually say it for a reason. Often we get this debate on travel websites about how a lot of American tourists don’t feel very welcome when they go abroad. It is usually blamed on “foreigners” naturally.

        The whole world looks at one murderer like Bush walk away while Americans celeberate the death of a murderer like Osama. What is the difference between the two that makes Bush immune to any sort of punishment for his murder count?

        Americans treat their own very differently to how they treat everybody else. Surely if Osama deserved to die Bush deserves the same justice but you don’t see that being bought up.

  • Couthy

    Would his capture and trial be worth cheering?

    If he could not be captured, would his escape be worth cheering?

  • Anna A.

    I was appalled at the celebrations, considering the vast human losses we’ve incurred from 9/11. 2,996 American deaths caused nearly 15,000 civillian/military casualties around the world, & nearly a half trillion USD of military spending. A life is a life, personally I find the unending bloodthirstiness and need for retribution stunning, disturbing, and cruel. Rejoicing a death is nothing short of barbaric, and encourages an insipid, unending cycle of violence. Our time in Afghanistan is far from over; something more somber and more of a tribute to all of the lives lost seems more appropriate to me. I will celebrate when our 90,000 troops are home safely.

    • Chad

      A life is only what you make of it. Equating Osama’s life to that of someone like Martin Luther King Jr. is completely asinine. We may be born reasonably close to equal, however we die far from it.

  • Chad

    It does seem odd to cheer the death of another person. That being said, I still feel like you are over analyzing a pretty simple event. Bin Laden was a mass murderer. I for one am glad that he is dead, and the same goes for anyone that makes it their life mission to kill innocent people.

    • Carlo Alcos

      If this were a simple event, it wouldn’t have caused what it caused. I think it’s not only very valid to analyze this, but important to do so. What was at the core of this reaction?

      • Matt K.

        Well, if we change the old adage a bit: One death is an event, one million deaths is a statistic.

        It’s easier to relate and pin all our problems to one symbolic, famous man dying than the hundreds of thousands that have already died in the resulting conflicts. I’ve been saying that Bin Laden is more of a totem than a leader to the United States. It’s the equivalent of cornering Hitler in WWII–just a boost to our collective ego and a nationalistic (some would say patriotic) pat on the back. What everyone forgets is the end of WWII, when it actually happened, directly led us to the Korean war, Vietnam, and the almighty Cold War.

        Killing one man, or even winning one war, doesn’t mean there’s not a hell of a lot of work to do afterwards.

      • Kelly

        The royal wedding marked the beginning of a war for our minds.. now you see it with Osamas death and people actually cheering – very strange since its been 10 years!!!

        The real enemy is within your own government, how can’t you see that?

  • Eileen Smith

    The most militant/jubilant reactions I’m hearing here in Chile are strangely, from Chileans. It adds another layer of confusion to how to decode what’s going on. Now I’ve got some more questions to ask.

    • Karen

      Very interesting to hear that, Eileen. I was living in Chile on 9/11/01 and the popular sentiment was quite the opposite — largely, I think due to the September 11th, 1973 connection. That may have just been the people I hung around with though.

  • Coleen

    I feel very removed from the celebrations as well, Dan (i am currently living in Patagonia, too!!).

    I’ve also found myself attempting to defend myself from people from this town who are questioning the whole operation and whether he is actually dead. It is really hard to be a type of representative of a country and have everyone come to me for answers, when I couldn’t posisbly know the truth. I’ll be honest, the anti-American sentiments I’ve been fending off have put me in a bad mood.

    I have a feeling that it wouldn’t be as big of a deal if people in the US were actually thinking about what they are cheering for. Thank you for the piece.

  • paul sullivan

    the quote commonly attributed to mark twain (but probably misquoted just like the mlk jr one) – “I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure” – summed up my feelings. i wasn’t into the chanting and jingoism but then i am english, not american and didn’t lose anyone close in 9/11 (although i was in nyc at the time). good post.

    • Bard

      The quote is by Clarence Darrow and it is being misused as that was not the context it was intended to be used in. It was used in jest more than in any serious discussion. Clarence was far from a barbarian.

      • Chad

        Alright, we get it. Everyone that thinks different from you is a barbarian. Is this kind of dialogue really necessary in an otherwise open-minded debate?

        • Bard

          I am assuming English isn’t your first language.

          Very simply one of the definitions of Barbarian is insensitive. Insensitive basically means “Showing or feeling no concern for others’ feelings.”

          People who are well versed in the English language know when and how to use “negative” language. Calling somebody a Barbarian to an infant mind might be insulting but if you look at what the word means it has its uses.

          There is a reason the words in the language exist and their use shouldn’t be treated as some sort of terrible omen. Use the words at your disposal to say what you want to say. Honestly this “oh he said a bad word” crap is ridiculous.

          • Chad

            Clearly you missed my point.

            Thats ok. I’m assuming you haven’t attended entry level courses in logic and debate. I won’t waste my time mentoring an internet troll. If you’d like to have a civil dialogue that addresses the actual points, instead of trying to label the opposition for the sole purpose of discrediting the speaker, let me know. I’m all ears.

          • Bard

            “ok” is not a word. So much for your overwhelming intelligence in logic and debate.

            It isn’t hard to tell what nation you are from. Punctuation and grammar do not make up for a lack of common sense. Keep that in mind.

            If you don’t see the point in a cycle repeating itself and putting an end to a cycle is the only way to bring death to an end then you belong perfectly amonst your countrymen.

          • Chad


            You’re welcome.

            I’ll leave it at that. It’s been an absolute pleasure speaking with you, and remember, the hatred is all one way. Americans, although sometimes ignorant and misguided, actually do have good intentions and genuinely care about the rest of the world.

          • Bard

            “OK” being popular doesn’t mean a lot actually. Some people don’t base their lives around what is popular, some people like to think for themselves.

            At the end of the day you can insult somebody using the nicest words in the language but your actions speak louder than your words. Think about that next time you rejoice in death and then try and play the very intelligent great guy with a little punctuation and grammar.

            I’m English. We invented the language you speak and we invented all the sinister dimensions it was ever used in, you can’t use that old trick against me.

  • Carlo Alcos

    The first thing I thought about when this was announced and people started cheering was, “what about all the other shit that’s going down right now in this world?” Once the cheering is over, people will climb back into their V8 SUVs, eat McDonald’s, shop at Wal-Mart, grow millions of acres of corn, hate their neighbours, hold grudges against their “enemies”, bully others, rape the earth for “precious” metals and oil, burn down forests, arm nations (and then fight them), numb their feelings, avoid love, build walls, fight against gay marriage, continue the can’t-win “war on drugs”…the list goes on.

    What, in the grand scheme of things, does this even mean? Head check time, people.

    • Bard

      I feel your point is going to be overlooked but consider this.

      Fast food has contributed to more deaths in the US aside from the men that pretty much wiped out Native Indians.

      There are uneducated morons eating themselves to death every day and they think they are safe because one man is dead. It is genuinely stupidity beyond comprehension.

      A little exercise and a little less gob stuffing would save many more lives and be a lot more cost effective. Osama doesn’t have to attack the US if the entire nation is going to eat itself to death.

      • Chad
        • Bard

          lol are you really insinuating that obesity is a bigger problem in the UK than it is in the US?

          Can you do us all a favour and never visit Europe because its Americans like you that make the US the laughing stock of the world.

          Obesity, guncrime and suicides in the US are magnitudes above anything in Europe or practically any other developed country.

          Americans are being shot, killing themselves and eating themselves to death all meanwhile spending trillions tracking one “scary” man.

          Why do you even come to a website designed to promote travel when your obviously not going to be welcome anywhere outside of your home anyway.

          • Kyle

            Perhaps the point he is trying to make, is simply that there are ignorant people in every nation. Some may have more than others, but ignorance has no borders.

          • Bard

            Kyle the point isn’t that “they did it so we can do it too”, the point is that you shouldn’t criticise others until you take a hard look at yourself. Americans have a very naive world view whereas everything they do is right and everything everybody else does is wrong.

            Nobody in America seems to care about the fact that the US was built off the back of slaves or that the land the nation is built on was taken from a people that were driven close to extinction.

            There are Americans that make Bin Laden look like a saint yet Americans claim they are cleansing the world of bad people. Perhaps history is not taught to the same standard in the US as elsewhere but I would say looking at yourself first is a good place to start.

            Bush is responsible for a bodycount much larger than Bin Laden but he walks free and he will never be held accountable. Like I said Americans are the only people in the world that seem to be missing that little tidbit of information.

          • Chad

            Bravo Kyle.

            You possess critical thinking skills. Leave Bard alone. He obviously doesn’t see the hypocrisy in his world view.

    • Kelly

      You are 100% right.

      Time people actually take a look at a sustainable solution called The Venus Project. Jacque Fresco is like a modern day Leonardo Da’Vinci!

  • joshywashington

    Are you cheering because we have been waiting for nearly ten years for something to cheer about? Because you need to cheer, we need to cheer, because if we can’t just go on plodding silently on wondering where this tangled mess is going, where it ends, who we want to be?

    Or are you just cheering because you are happy, and feel young and feel strong and the night is cold but clear and you can’t remember the last time people gathered like this, the last time the air crackled with electric uncertainty and something that tastes like victory?

    • Tim Patterson

      Are you cheering because you feel like part of something bigger than yourself?

  • Raymond

    I’m a Canadian in Canada, and although I can’t say I was actually “cheering”, I was certainly grinning from ear-to-ear…

  • Matthew

    I’m cheering for justice. Osama bin Ladin sought to and in some situations succeeded in killing those that differed from his own views. He probably felt he had been wronged by the culture and political institutions of the western world and to some extent he may have been. But what I’m cheering (if you can consider my greeting of the news without much regret) is that he was punished for what he is responsible for.

    Many individuals on these comments have said that Bush is worse than Osama and I cannot and will not say that the decisions that President Bush made did not cost many people their lives. My question to you is whether the actions of President Bush were designed to harm others or if they were a reaction to what he and his cabinet saw (though there seems to have been some wishful thinking that may have skewed interpretation of information)?

  • Ahimsa

    The strangest thing to me is that the the largest voice of dissidence in the Bin Laden matter comes from the “we shouldn’t celebrate one man’s death” contingent. While I do agree with that sentiment, it doesn’t address the crux of the matter.

    You don’t have to be Noam Chomsky to know that the US foreign policy directly led to the Sep 11 attacks. Those were beyond horrible and unjustifiable, of course, but certainly not unprovoked. Until we as adults stop subscribing into ideas like “good vs evil” it will be hard for any social ills to be addressed.

    • Christine Garvin

      Therein lies the problem – a lot of Americans don’t know, don’t understand, or deny the realities of US foreign policy.

    • Tim

      A piece about Chomsky you may not have seen;

  • Molly

    I also feel largely disconnected from these celebrations. Though, the most disconcerting thing for me is seeing Chinese people here wearing Osama shirts. Granted, I don’t feel any strong feelings towards his death, it still makes me feel uncomfortable to see someone wearing an Osama shirt.

  • Rebecca

    I’m not cheering because I have a couple of questions:

    1. How do I know he’s dead? I didn’t see a body, and he was conveniently buried at sea. Why? Why not show proof? We held public hangings and be-headings back in the day. The public knew for sure that a prisoner was dead. If you don’t want to see the pictures, turn-off the TV, don’t read the newspaper, and stay off of the internet.

    2. How do I know he wasn’t killed years ago?

    3. Why was he ‘killed’ 19 months before the 2012 presidential election?

    4. Why do we believe that it’s ‘right’ or that it makes sense to fight violence with violence? Can’t we get along and let people live and let live. Why can’t we focus on healing?

    5. Why are we paying $4.00 or more per gallon (US dollars) for gas when they pay less than $1.00 per gallon (US dollars) in the Middle East? Why aren’t Americans upset about this?

    6. How is this event going to help the U.S.’s economy?

    7. Why do people ‘buy’ into fear? Didn’t FDR say, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself?”

    8. When are the U.S.’s military personnel coming home? Haven’t they seen enough atrocities. What happens when they come home? Why don’t they receive the best medical care? Why are some military personnel homeless? Why is there a lot of red tape? These people put their lives on the line. What happens when they decide not to?

    I don’t know. I think if people channeled their hate and negative energy into positivity, the world would be a better place; and we wouldn’t have to go through security checkpoints when we travel. There would be nothing to fear. Perhaps that’s it — fear is good for business!

    • Peter

      4 dollars isn’t actually that bad compared to the rest of the world. It’s the same reason you/we pay 20 bucks for a t-shirt or 100 bucks for a pair of shoes…simple supply and demand. Unfortunately, our demand is too high and we haven’t done much of anything to lower it.

  • Sue Brayne

    Great, thought provoking article. I have blogged about this too.

  • Fraser Mcilwraith

    To be honest, I find it rather disturbing that any nation could join in celebration at the killing of an unarmed fellow man. No matter how despicable his actions were, nobody had the right to kill him when he was unarmed.
    And then a nation that prides itself on freedom and humanity, celebrates his killing.

    • Tim

      Do you consider a terrorist your “fellow man”? How do you tell if someone has explosives on them? Just because someone isn’t holding a gun doesn’t mean they aren’t wearing a suicide vest.

  • Amanda

    Morally, I think it’s wrong to celebrate any kind of death. Of course, it was hard not to feel a brief moment of relief when I heard the news, but I didn’t feel right about it. I think we should be recognizing all the the people affected by the violence he and his organization have perpetrated. Isn’t that more respectful than simply patting ourselves on the back for an act that might not be important in the grand scheme of things?

    That being said, please remember that not every American is blindly celebrating. I’m American, and I think it’s close-minded to accuse an entire country of acting one way. Don’t use broad generalizations to pretend you’re morally better.

  • Paulo

    What is seen in popular media as being reality for a larger population is usually false. Any savvy traveler knows this. The large majority of Americans acted in no such way. Still, the editor’s article criticizes how those few people acted in the moment they learned of the death of a mass murderer who had struck their hometown. It’s weird so many of you here are quick to jump on the bandwagon.

    • David Miller

      thanks for commenting paulo.

      i didn’t feel like i was criticizing anyone.

  • Carole Milstead

    Thank you for this…. I, too wondered what was being cheered. A man died and maybe death was too good for him… I dont know. I just felt like it is a sad day when we cheer passing of a man, even such as Osama…

  • Sebas Barreneche

    I’ll put myself out there for a bit: I was at Ground Zero that night.

    (You can read about my experience here: )

    I woke up the next day (late in the day since everyone went to sleep really late) in a haze that lasted about half of the week. It was a very strange moment and I don’t think I can/could grasp it fully because there were so many emotions (good and bad), but you’re more than welcome to read my post about it. It’s an honest (honestly) and personal outlook at the situation and my involvement as a part of it.

    • David Miller

      thanks so much for sharing your account sebas.

      i was sort of hoping someone who was there would speak up.

      i hope everyone follows this link and reads yr account for themselves:

      • Sebas Barreneche

        No problem, David.

        It’s there for everyone to see and maybe even understand the process (or lack thereof) that led many people to Ground Zero that night.

        Like I said, it was a strange experience for myself to be there, witness, and take part. If I hadn’t been there, I think I would be perplexed by the reactions I’d see on TV as it is all presented on a surface-level, so I’m glad I experienced it; I can look at these groups of people gathered and understand the MANY emotions that each individual had within them at the time; and I’m only a new New Yorker! Some of the stories shared that night from life-long New Yorkers were extremely powerful and moving; there was no way to truly feel all they felt.

  • joyfulsunrise

    I cannot rejoice in killing anyone,anything. I find it deeply disrespectful and terrifying.

    If someone somewhere is mourning anyone’s death,we as fellow travelers on this planet,may benefit to offer spirit of compassion. It is a dishonor of our humanness to cheer, if in fact we are humans.

    We still do not know the truth of much that has happened here and abroad, where our country has killed so very many.

    Peace does not come from war and retribution.

  • r.getty

    Do you know that “MATADOR” means “KILLER” in Spanish?
    I like the fact that OBL was reduced to shark food, some of you seem to think a Candygram would have been a better way to address the issue of his guilt!

    • Daniel Nahabedian

      Thanks for the Spanish lessons.

      Could you be more specific and explain why it makes you happy to know him thrown at sea? I’m just curious to know why.

  • Lara

    Perhaps the cheering was done mostly by those who have never felt the unity our country felt right after 9/11. I’m talking about the young ones who are just coming of age. They have never felt what it was like then, to look at a stranger and shake your head and cry with them as we did at 9/11. At the heart of it, perhaps those cheering were feeling unity for the first time. Just a thought.

  • Evelyn

    The killing of Osama was probably the least worst solution. Would have been worse to bomb his house and kill his wives and children, or to take on the whole state of Pakistan for harbouring him just as US and coalition partners have invaded Iraq and Afghanistan killing hundreds of thousands and bombing these countries back to the middle ages, or capturing him and bringing him to trial via years in prison or leaving him contained and imprisoned in the top room of his grand hovel surrounded by the Pakistani military, but festering further attacks around the world by his followers. All dreadful options. But to watch as people in US cheered at this least worst solution was truly a most disgusting sight.

  • joe c.

    the absurdity of cheering the death of an old man ten years AFTER he killed over 3000 people ….. if you noticed the people who were cheering… all of them about 20 years old , meaning they were 10 when the towers were struck. you didnt see any real adults out there who are older and wiser to understand that theres nothing to cheer about did you? it is NOT a great day for america! america is still trillions of dollars in debt, fighting 3 wars that no one wants ,has a collapsing infrastructure,more people in jail than any other nation on earth and its government has declared war on its workers taking away their bargaining rights in many states. our government still gives more money to pakistan and israel than it does to detroit or new jersey…. but these children who know only their iphones are cheering as if it were a football match. killing this man BEFORE he attacked us would be something to cheer about! when he kills 3000 people and you kill him only once guess what? he wins! stop cheering children . please . you only confirm the truth that america is a overpopulated and under educated nation

  • Karin-Marijke

    @ Rebecca: “I think if people channeled their hate and negative energy into positivity, the world would be a better place; and we wouldn’t have to go through security checkpoints when we travel. There would be nothing to fear. Perhaps that’s it — fear is good for business!”

    Good point.

    Let’s keep on travelling. If travel has taught me one thing, it is that there is by far and large not so much to fear in this world as my surroundings would like me to believe ["surroundings" reflect all places on this planet, not just the Western world].

    Thanks Dave, for the blog. You certainly know how to ask questions!

  • r.getty

    I get no pleasure from killing a cockroach but OBL was a different breed of parasite, one very difficult to eliminate. The fact that we did kill him is proof to them that we are some bad-ass exterminators and they need to run for cover. What ever whining goes in in the process is just that, nothing more. It’s a tough job, take it like a man you sofa surfers.

  • blabla

    The fact is that no solid evidence has ever been presented that he was even responsible for 9/11. That said, what the heck gives the US the right to shoot this unarmed suspect dead and not put him on trial??? This goes against all international laws. Why has this not been condemned by the international community? The monsters of Nazi Germany were brought to justice (actual justice, not an eye-for-an-eye) by the allies and were shown for what they were in front of the eyes of the world. Why wasnt bin Laden???

    • Momo

      No solid evidance? How about the fact that he took credit for it? Listen, i’m not even american, i’m from eastern europe and believe me, you americans have never seen socialism or communism and be very very thankfull of the fact. So don’t go saying that getting rid of dictators is not a good thing, because my god, you have never been under the rule of one (and don’t go telling me about the corruption and what-not, every country has corruption). And how exactly are you supposed to bring him to trail and use guns, when he had a small army protecting him, what were the army supposed to do? Nock on his door and leave an envoicement? Yeah, you go and do that! I am cheering no because a man is dead, but because a terrorrist and a person of injustice, oppression and murder is no longer around to do evil deeds. Yes, i know there are many more, but don’t go telling me that Osama Bin Laden was not one of them, because that’s just damn ignorant.

  • Jared Krauss

    David, I haven’t read the comments, so I don’t know what anyone else has said.

    Let me first say, this is one of the most important articles, I feel, that you could have written. People need to question this reaction.

    Rashard Mendenhall was criticised… on ESPN!! for voicing similar opinions.

    I was ridiculed on Facebook by friends for being a “Fun hater” and anti-patriotic, told a la Ricki Stanzi, that if I ‘don’t love it, leave it’.

    I said repeatedly, that this War on Terror is not one that should be conducted by our military, but by our people, like you, like me. I think the best piece I came up with for this topic was, “This is not a war that is going to be won with bullets and bombs, but maybe with books.”

    Thanks for making people think about their reaction without attacking their reaction. I feel like you might have a better chance at reaching people than I did with my anger.


  • Brian Dennison

    Late to the party here…..

    Mary Jane and I spent the night in the Bird’s Nest in the banks of Lake Bunyonyi (a really beautiful place in Southwest Uganda).    As we made our way down for breakfast we were greeted by Paulo, a 50ish Belgian who manages the place.  Pablo’s greeting was  ”Osama Bin Laden is dead, come this way.”  Pablo directed us to the flat screen hovering over the registration desk.  Thanks to a crisp satellite feed from CNN, we were treated to the ebullient reactions in D.C. and Ground Zero while nearly information-less talking heads broke down Obama’s speech and the proficiency of our special forces.   

    As we watched we were watched by Pablo and a table-full of seven Ugandan tour guides.     Our reactions were muted and provided a boring contrast to the images on TV.   After about six minutes we went outside and got a table by the lake.  I felt a numb relief and a sense of “man that really took a long time and cost a lot of money.”  I wish I had thought of the lives lost  and damaged to accomplish this, but I didn’t.  I sat there and took stock in just how much that guy had “accomplished.”   He really put a massive dent us, which is exactly what he had hoped to do.

    As for the 20ish reactions, yes they were weird.  Those of us born in 1972 had the Russians and disaffected white guys (Uni-bomber, Bundy, McVeigh, etc.) to worry about.  For the celebrating generation Bin Laden was their singular boogie man.  He is the guy that messed up their world.  Bin Laden wanted to kill them, promised to kill them and he was really good at it.  For them it was a psychic huge relief to have Bin Laden gone.  Our generation knows how messed up the world already was before  Bin Laden came along.  We were glad he was dead, but would have preferred if he just never was.  For a time in our lives he pretty much never was.  That was a better state.  We can remember it.  

    So let the celebrating generation celebrate, they have plenty of time to dial it down.  It may be a little embarrassing to watch from Argentina or Uganda, but they earned it.  That was one hell of a boogie man that we just shot in the head.

  • Doctorc11

    I’m cheering because a no-good filthy murding rat bastard is dead. If you can’t cheer for that, you’re just to hard to please

    • yeahyeah

      heck yeah.

  • Delia Harrington

    fyi, Obama wrote that speech himself, although that’s unusual for a president to do so I can see the confusion.  I think it was beautiful. 

"Where's the snow?" asked Wentworth, arriving Paris-Dakar-style out of the moonless...
When you stop to ask yourself what homeless people spend money on, why not ask yourself...
John Francis Power learns what it means to be beautiful in South Korea.
Get your cremains pressed into vinyl. Why be scattered when your family's eardrums could...
Things can get lost in translation when a typical gesture from your country means...
Unlike the San Diego psychic who conformed to my gypsy oracle stereotype, Mr. Furuda wore...
The first time it happened to me, I thought it was a fluke - a creative cashier with...
Project Explorer is a nonprofit organization that produces free, online travel series for...
MatadorU travel writing grad and boat captain Mike Collins has a few words for BP's CEO.
"[B]oth of us were almost killed in various ways by the Taliban."-Sebastian Junger
The verdict in the killing of an unarmed black man by a white BART police officer creates...
It is an evocation of a long-dead past, but a past that defines the Peruvian national...