I’m feeling a little sick this morning. Like everyone, I’ve been reeling for more than 24 hours as the news about Osama bin Laden unfolded. Reeling, really, for almost 10 years, after the terrorist attack on our country.
The events of 9/11 hit home in many ways. The sheer horror and disbelief as the news footage rolled that day as I prepared my 4-year-old for her first day of preschool. Then shifting gears to go and be a New York journalist, covering the local reaction when I had no idea if my own relatives who worked near Ground Zero were safe. All I wanted to do was go back home and hide, feeling terrified and unsafe.
The attacks wiped out half the people in my sister’s neighborhood who worked at the towers and she attended funerals for weeks. Closer to home, the World Trade Center collapse took a boy in my class from our town’s little Catholic school here in Massachusetts. His obituary guest book has been online all this time and the comments yesterday and today from family and friends have rolled in.
“They got him, Uncle Michael!” said one with triumph.
As the years passed, I’ve interviewed family members of victims, attended memorials and dedications, and watched from afar as the world searched for pure evil. Who wouldn’t want him gone? Isn’t everyone better off?
Of course we are. But then I saw the celebrations. The yelling and screaming. The profanities. The jubilance at a death. The jokes. And I am queasy. Because it’s no different than the reactions we hated as some folks in other parts of the world capitalized on our misfortune. So, how are we any better when we act the same way?
Columnists everywhere are working today to put these same feelings into words. But a friend’s post on Facebook with a quote from MLK Jr. said it for me:
“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Yes, it’s easy to say, and putting it into practice is something entirely different. But isn’t that the very thing that elevates our humanity?