Midshipman: This is why we celebrated when bin Laden died

May 04, 2011

As my classmates and I celebrated at the Naval Academy following President Obama's confirmation of Osama bin Laden's death, I could not help but think of the moment in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy's house crushes the Wicked Witch of the East. The Munchkins' enthusiasm of her demise was equal to our own in Annapolis on that cool Sunday night. Of course, the Wicked Witch of the West halts the festivities in dramatic fashion, promising to avenge the death of her sister. Will a parallel to the end of that scene begin a new battle in the Global War on Terror? Hopeful thinking says no, but this allusion reminds us that the military's responsibility to the nations in which it is engaged is not over.

So what were we celebrating? The taking of a human life? There has been much debate about the ethics of celebrating the news of bin Laden's death, and as a nation espousing that "all men are created equal," all human life must be revered. But I do not believe we celebrated the death of an individual; rather, we celebrated the vindication of the military's efforts and a sense of closure. September 11th, 2001 is a day I can't forget and is one of the reasons many of us are currently midshipmen.

As a sixth grader, I remember coming home early from school that day and watching the towers fall again and again, and asking my father, "Who did this?" That night, my father, who was not a particularly religious man, took me to a candlelight vigil in the park across the street from my house. I was four days short of turning 11 years old and did not understand the situation but could sense the gravity of the moment as neighbors and strangers solemnly gathered together.

Maybe now there can be a catharsis as we are reminded of the feeling of unity shared nearly 10 years ago in tragedy. On Sunday, the country was together again, singing a jubilant requiem to lingering anxieties and restoring faith in the military's commitment to its mission.

Hans Vreeland, Annapolis

The writer is a midshipman second class at the United States Naval Academy.

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