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Life without specter of bin Laden is surreal

I was skipping through channels when I found out.

It was about 11 at night, and I was looking for something to watch before going to sleep.

Then, I saw the message flashing across the television screen: OSAMA BIN LADEN DEAD.

I'm sure that when many of us heard or read these words, all sorts of emotions arose within, be it relief that we finally got him, concern for the future or sorrow upon being reminded of the infamous attacks on the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

Being 17 and having spent my formative years with the specter of 9/11 hanging over my head, barely remembering anything about life in America before that fateful day, my first reaction was a bit different.

Disbelief.

I was only 7 when the attacks happened, so I've lived most of my life under their shadow.

My generation grew up hearing about conflicts in the Middle East and knowing bin Laden as a distant boogie man who we had to catch, although it was years before we really started to understand why.

As time went on, we all slowly became more familiar with the details of why so much security buzzed around airports and why everyone argued about war and torture and terrorism and constitutional rights.

But the one thing that we'll never understand quite as well as our parents and teachers do is what life was like before.

To our elders, all of the suspicion, pain, and controversy that have colored the past decade are a sign of the times.

To us, they're a fact of life.

From the beginning, we knew that we were attacked, that we were afraid, and that we were looking for bin Laden. What we didn't know was why it should be any different.

Having lived with that threat since we were too young to comprehend its significance, we were able to ignore it. We could treat it like some tree or building that we pass by every day until we grow so accustomed to it that we forget that it even exists.

That makes it even more shocking when one day it isn't there.

And that's why I couldn't believe what I was seeing on the television screen, why it was so surreal. There was no way it could be true. To me, a world in which we weren't looking for Osama bin Laden didn't exist.

Time marches on, and now that the initial shock has worn off, we'll be thinking about what's to come.

As we debate what this means and how it will affect the future, I can't help but think about my baby cousin. He's 16-months-old, and when he grows up he'll have no idea what it felt like to first hear about the death of Osama bin Laden.

If we're lucky, the shadow of the last 10 years will be as foreign to him as it is familiar to me.

Caitlin Trundy is a Valrico resident and senior at Tampa Preparatory School.

Life without specter of bin Laden is surreal 05/05/11 [Last modified: Saturday, May 7, 2011 3:09pm]
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