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The Daily Tar Heel

Bin Laden de?ned us in life and in death

I was in seventh grade homeroom when I first learned the World Trade Centers had been destroyed and the Pentagon attacked by terrorists. At the naive age of 12, I honestly had no idea what to make of the news.

It had no immediate impact on my life other than an early dismissal from school and an increased emphasis on security seemingly every place I went.

But the next 10 years of our lives were shaped largely by the events of September 11, 2001. Our country endured nearly 3,000 deaths, enormous financial loss and shattered the illusion that we could never be attacked at home.

But perhaps more damaging was the psychological effect of the attacks on our generation. The American political, cultural and economic environment was deeply affected by that day and our generation was raised largely in the midst of a decade of terrorism, fear and intense patriotism.

I never heard Osama bin Laden speak. I never could understand what would compel someone to kill himself in order to kill innocent civilians. All I know for sure is that I am glad justice was done.

I was sitting in the basement of the Undergraduate Library when I first learned that bin Laden had been killed by an American military unit. I knew the reaction to the news on CNN would be significant and I was not surprised by the explosion of updates on Facebook and Twitter.

But I was surprised by what happened immediately following President Obama’s speech that night: dozens of students dropped what they were doing and ran around the library passing out tiny American flags, singing songs and chanting U.S.A! U.S.A!

And when we turned on our television sets at home, we saw images of students just like us, chanting, cheering and dancing outside the gates of the White House, in New York City and on college campuses all across the country.

Students who were not even teenagers on 9/11 took a break from their busy exam schedule to rejoice as an American generation that finally found its cathartic closure to a decade marred by terrorism and fear.

Yes, the credit for this success should go to the troops, our intelligence organizations and the commander in chief, but this success belongs to our generation as well.

We lived through a decade of two major wars that were fought in part by us. We were forced to grow up during a time of war because of the actions of bin Laden, and his demise is an opportunity not only for celebration, but also a chance to turn the page on this decade of terror.

So to our generation: let us try to live the rest of our lives in a way so we can look back on May 1, 2011 and say that was the day it all changed for us; the day the trajectory of our generation changed course in a profoundly positive way.

Sam Jacobson is the Opinion Editor for The Daily Tar Heel. He is a senior political science and global studies major from Bethesda, MD. Email him at

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