I was hoisting my bike up on my shoulder in preparation to climb three flights of stairs. A freshman about to do a “how-to” speech on mountain biking to my Speech 101 class, I was running late. I turned to jog up the stairs and ran into my buddy Dan.
Dan: “Hey man. Have you seen the news today?”
Me: “No why?”
Dan: “Someone flew a plane into the World Trade Center.”
Me: “What? One of the twin towers in New York?”
Dan: “Yeah, its all over the news, they are trying to evacuate all the people, they think its going to collapse.”
Me: “ … man that is crazy … I gotta run. Going to be late to give a speech.”
The speech I gave was horrendous, but I don’t think anyone noticed. The class was whispering in hushed tones about the news most of them had just received. As I tried to explain the proper use of clipless pedals, many were hearing about the 9/11 attacks for the first time.
Growing up in one of the world’s biggest and most prosperous nations, I think so many of us had become accustomed to feeling secure, untouchable even. It was only later that I would learn that both towers had been hit as well as the Pentagon. A fourth plane had crashed somewhere in Pennsylvania. I felt vulnerable and confused. Who would do something like this?
I will never forget where I was when I learned about the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Yet, I doubt I will remember where I was when I heard about Osama Bin Laden’s death. Almost 10 years later this so-called justice feels anticlimactic. I won’t even begin to try to place myself in the shoes of those who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks, but it is my suspicion that Bin Laden’s death is not nearly as satisfying as we had hoped it would be.
Vengeance is the Lord’s (Rom.12:19). Ours is a God of justice. He weighs the scales. He knows what men deserve. At times he gives it to them while at other times He relents. I for one am glad that the Lord relents for me, and that he was patient with me (2 Peter 3:9). We can rejoice at some sense of justice that comes from Bin Laden’s death. Perhaps it brought some a sense of closure for some, if only for a moment. Truthfully, had this news come a few days, weeks, or even months after 9/11, I would probably have been out on the street with the rest chanting, “U S A!” But nearly 10 years, billions of dollars spent, and thousands of lives lost in the hunt, and a little perspective gained has produced a different response in me.
There is no doubt in my mind that had our special forces not intervened, Bin Laden would have continued plotting terrorist attacks that would have killed more people. I rejoice in the hope that this will reduced the number of terrorist attacks Al Qaeda will unleash but I can’t rejoice that this wicked man is dead because the Lord doesn’t rejoice at such things (Ezekiel 33:11; Prov. 24:17). I can’t boast in something that grieves my Lord.
If you must know, I was sitting on the couch watching Ben Affleck’s The Town with my good friend Nathan. My wife, who was in another room having bailed on the movie shouted, “Hey did you see this?”
Me: “No, what?”
Jennifer: “Everyone on Facebook is talking about it. Apparently Osama Bin Laden is dead.”
Me: “Really? . . . Wow . . . Man what has it been? Nine years now that we have been looking for him?”
Nathan: “Yeah, September 11, 2001, about 9 and a half years.”
Me: “How did he die?”
Jennifer: “I am not sure, I will have to check—maybe it was a missile strike or something.”
The Town was a dark movie. Dougy was a bank robber who feels conflicted about the lifestyle he has chosen and wants out. As the film progresses the atrocities to which he is an accomplice continue to escalate. And yet I began to feel more and more affection for Dougy. In a different town with different friends Dougy would be an amicable, responsible guy. The movie ends with Dougy narrowly escaping his own death, while his friends and partners are not so lucky. As the result of a change of heart, he donates a good portion of the money he made off with at his last robbery to a community center in the blue-collar neighborhood in which he grew up. Dougy deserves the same fate as the rest of his friends.
Still, I just couldn’t cheer for that.