May 2, 2011 We’ve witnessed some pretty tumultuous political moments during our time in DC. Seemingly as soon as we got here, revolution erupted across the Middle East. The goverement almost shut down last month. Donald Trump happened. And yet, for as exciting as those moments were, I don’t think any of those really resonate in a “10 years from now I'll remember where I was for this,” sort of way.
I had been thinking for a while on what an adequate post-script to my DC experience for this journal might look like. Of course, I could have described our mid-week trip to Mount Vernon, or cite the incredible infestation of camera toting, sock/sandal combo wearing middle-aged tourists who have taken over our National Mall.
But then something much bigger happened, and it has proved to be the perfect way to close out this semester in DC. Having finished my internship last week, now just closing out the last couple of days in DC by working on my term paper and lazing around, there was almost an anti-climactic feel to these final days in DC. Then, last night, after spending much of my evening watching Arrested Development on Netflix and vaguely aware that the President was going to address the nation around 10:30 p.m. with some new national security development, I headed down to a friend’s apartment only to be greeted when I entered with some very simple words: “We got Osama.”
Certainly not news you hear every day.
As we watched the television to get more and learned from Wolf Blitzer’s beard that President Obama was ready to speak to the nation and confirm that Osama Bin Laden had in fact been killed, a sort of confused celebration came upon all of us. Ten years in the making, right?
And from there, we heard that a crowd was gathering a couple of miles away, in Lafayette Square in front of the White House. How often does something like this happen? There’s no way that we weren’t going to go and join in.
Whatever it was I expected to see when we got there, I simply wasn’t prepared for the outpouring American spirit that was reverberating in front of the White House last night. We were able to get real close into the action, just a couple among at least 5,000 scarred, rebuilding Americans jubilant to see one of the most evil men this country has ever had to count as an enemy meet his demise.
There have been some concerns in the wake of this that Americans are showcasing an undue amount of ‘blood lust,’ or something along those lines. And yet, from where I was standing, screaming myself hoarse with ‘U-S-A!’ chants (I suppose I should note that contrary to what this website’s profile of me says, I’m a Maryland native and proud American), that’s not at all what it felt like. Sure, there were a couple of cheers that started that rhymed with, “Duck Osama!” But Americans gathered last night to celebrate each other, celebrate this country, and above all else celebrate our troops.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget last night. The large swaths of people, some young, some old, some George Washington University students who didn’t want to study for finals, coming together, screaming, hugging, chanting, waving more American flags than I ever would have expected people to have on them on such short notice, singing The Star Spangled Banner, God Bless America, and chanting ‘U-S-A!’ as much as they possibly could, until the wee hours of the morning. There were guys in full stars and stripes body suits, a burly older man with Marine tattoos who finally succeeded where nobody else could by climbing an enormous light pole to keep an American flag stubbornly flying (and celebrating with some pull-ups), and they were all there to celebrate something bigger than themselves.
It was, I think, a cathartic experience for anyone involved. Nobody likes the idea of celebrating another man’s death, but last night showed me the importance of finding closure, and of finding reasons to come together in a time when of such pessimism and division. It felt like we won the World Cup, except instead of winning a soccer tournament, we had taken out one of the most evil men his world has seen. National pride can almost become a cliché idea at times, but yesterday was pure, unadulterated and unfiltered American celebration. We needed it.