Originally published on Youthradio.org, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.
Young people who were in elementary school on 9-11 have grown up hearing about Osama bin Laden and came of age during the War on Terror. Was he their generation's boogie man? Youth Radio reached out to young adults in three cities to find out.
I'm Tajah Jones in Oakland, California.
When I first think of a villain, I think of the joker, not Osama bin Laden.
Over the last decade, which is more than half of my life, Bin Laden was the face of terrorism. But Bin Laden and the war seemed distant from my everyday life. What affected me was the racial prejudice against Muslims and people of color following the September 11th attacks.
I remember when Barack Obama was running for president. There was a poster of Obama with a long beard and a turban. Beneath the image it read, “Obama bin Laden.” The image shocked me as extreme propaganda.
This really struck me when I visited my Muslim cousin in D.C. -- 6 years after 9/11. We went through airport security and my cousin, wearing a hijab, was unnecessarily questioned. As if simply being Muslim made her dangerous – a terrorist. Until then, I never associated being an American Muslim with Bin Laden. They seemed like two different things. People confuse Bin Laden’s actions with ordinary Muslims when they shouldn’t.
I've made racial and cultural assumptions myself, but being on the other end of it makes me stop and think.
I know he’s supposed to be the scariest man of our time, or the face of evil, but Osama bin Laden didn’t scare me. The people who don’t question what they hear-- they scare me.
I'm Kathleen Quillian in Atlanta, Georgia.
I was in third grade during the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Since then, I've always been aware of Osama bin Laden but never frightened by him.
I don't see Bin Laden as a boogie man -- I think of him more as a character, parodied by shows such as South Park and Family Guy. And I am not saying that Bin Laden is not a serious subject, but this person was not somebody my friends and I feared.
Growing up, news conversations have always revolved around certain key words -- war on terror, weapons of mass destruction, Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. My generation has grown up with terror of one kind or another -- terror of another attack or of losing a loved one in war.
Yet the reason why we went to war in Afghanistan is still a bit unclear to me. I still have questions that are not easy to answer. Why do we send more troops as we talk about pulling out? Why can't we send our troops home? Especially now that we have finally found and killed this so-called monster?
I feel like I know what's happening overseas, but I have become numb to all of it. The conflicts are never ending. So I've learned to cope with them. For my generation, the war on terror plays a part in our everyday lives. We just work it into our schedules -- it is on the news everyday and we talk about it nonstop in our schools.
It's been going on since I was in third grade, so I know that one man's death isn't going to end it.
I'm Jeany Lee in New York City.
I woke up with a smirk on my face when I found out Osama bin Laden was murdered. The first thought that popped in my head was, “Serves him right for traumatizing me when I was a teenager...”
Perhaps that thought was a bit selfish, considering some of my friends had family who died in the World Trade Center. The trauma I experienced that day, and months after that, seems like nothing compared to what the families and friends of these victims went through.
Before 9-11-01, I lived a charmed life in Tribeca. My favorite thing to do with my dad was eating dinner at Windows on the World Restaurant as a kid. Aerial views of the city from the 100th or so floor made Manhattan look like a dollhouse with yellow hot wheels cars. God, I miss that view terribly.
After 9-11, We couldn't go back to our apartment for months. I was in constant anxiety that year wondering, “When will I go home? Do we have a home? Is my stuff okay? I hope my clothes aren’t chemically toxic..” Downtown Manhattan was my home, and I so badly wanted to return. Eventually, we did move back into our old apartment in May of 2002 to find our possessions under a mountain of toxic dust. My mother arranged for our apartment to be fumigated, and when we moved back in, we had to get new towels, rugs, kitchen appliances.
Through the years, I hated Osama bin Laden. I hated that his stupid actions disrupted my life and gave me some of the worst anxiety I ever experienced at that time. Like any teenager, I wished him dead because he made that year for me a living hell.
After I returned to Tribeca, I eventually resumed my normal day-to-day life with my family and blocked out all those traumatic feelings I experienced that year. I try not to think about 9-11 -- getting in depth with it floods everything back like a freight train that is ready to retard my mindset.
Hearing about Bin Laden’s death does give me a bit of solace. However, it does not wipe away all the bad feelings I remember from that time, and nor does it bring back any of the victims that perished that day. As far as I am concerned, Osama got what was coming to him.
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