>My freshman year of high school, I was sitting in second period World History class when the principal announced that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. My teacher, who also taught a current events class, explained to us it was likely the work of a terrorist group like Al Qaeda.
We got out of school early and I spent that afternoon in the park, lying on the jungle gym and staring at the sky wondering if this meant everything had changed. In my mind, I saw fighter jets zoom overhead. I wondered if it was possible for war to come to my home.
The next few years of my life were marked by a discussion about life in a “post-9/11” world. There was fiction discussing how it was different. There were adults on the news or other talk showed telling me things were going to change.
I didn’t notice these changes, but maybe it was because I grew up with them. Airport security got tighter. The government got bigger. Not all of these changes had, as far as I could see, anything to do with what happened in 2001.
The word “terrorist” became our horror. It replaced other words I didn’t know because I was too young to know them. I took history classes at university and, to me, it was just replacing one set of terms with another. England became Europe became Asia became Russia and Cuba became Middle East. King George III became Hitler and Mussolini became Mao and Kim Il Sun became Castro and names I never knew became Bin Laden and Hussein. The Monarchy became Nazis became communists stayed communists became terrorists.
For almost ten years, for a theoretical generation, Osama Bin Laden was a villain, a scourge. He was a symbol just as much for us as he was for Al Qaeda. He was something we were told to rally against.
When this started, when I first heard his name, I was fourteen. I was sitting in class. I was just starting high school and working on figuring out who I was. Yesterday, I was twenty-three. When the news broke, I was sitting in a bar with people who have come to define my life. I was explaining that I’d gotten a job offer over the phone, but I wasn’t ready to acknowledge it was real until I had a paper offer or an e-mail address [from the company] or -something-.
I came to adulthood between the years of 2001 and 2011. Last night, nationally and personally, an era ended.
I am an adult and Bin Laden is dead.