Ripples of Terror: Students Reflect on Bin Laden Death

People gather outside the White House to celebrate the death of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden on Sunday, May 1 in Washington, D.C. | Photo courtesy of MCT Campus

At 11:30 p.m. on May 1, President Barack Obama announced to the world in a televised address that Osama bin Laden, the leader of terrorist organization Al-Qaeda, and the most wanted man in the world had been shot and killed by American forces.

Obama was informed eight months ago of the trail that eventually led to the discovery of bin Laden’s whereabouts.

In Westport, only an hour-long train ride away from Ground Zero, the site of the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks, many are celebrating the death of this terrorist leader.

“America needs something like this,” Craig Wheat ’13 said.

Wheat, who “hadn’t been thinking of Bin Laden that much” prior to the announcement, couldn’t believe that the terrorist leader had been killed by American forces. He first heard the news while surfing Facebook, and then did a Google News search to “check it out.”

“Sure enough, there were tons of articles titled ‘Osama Dead.’ I don’t think anyone really saw it coming,” Wheat said.

Wheat’s story exemplifies the important role technology has played in recent Middle-Eastern events—within seconds of the news, Twitter was flooded with bin Laden-related tweets, which marked its highest rate of tweets in the social networking site’s history.

“Still can’t believe the world is free of bin Laden now!” one user wrote.

Cole De Monico ’13 was surprised less by the death itself, and more by the details of it.

“I was even further shocked by the fact that it was Navy Seals that killed him. I expected it to either be ailment or militant Pakistanis, considering the attacks Al Qaeda has made on the country,” De Monico said.

The news was certainly exciting for many Americans, with thousands gathering at both Ground Zero and the White House minutes after the announcement. The crowds waved flags and chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A!”, inspiring patriotism around the country.

“I think that his death is symbolic for many Americans and that is a good thing,” JJ Mathewson ’12 said.

But Middle East Studies teacher Cathy Schager believes that, although the event is “positive in the short term,” the fight is far from over.

“Just because bin Laden is dead doesn’t mean that his rhetoric and hate die with him,” Schager said.

Mathewson agrees with Schager and predicts that Al-Qaeda has a back-up plan.

“Although their symbolic leader is gone, the ideas he imparted on all the people within the movement are still there,” Mathewson said. “Someone will take his place.”

Schager, who was in “utter and complete shock” after hearing of bin Laden’s death, questions the safety of American troops if Al-Qaeda retaliates.

“Al Qaeda poses a threat to our forces in Afghanistan out of their base of operations in Pakistan, but also from their various cells globally,” Schager said.

Jack Ewert ’13 says that the death could “dismantle the whole Al-Qaeda network,” yet he still has fears about the potential reaction of the terrorist organization.

“It could also cause extreme anger and provoke another attack,” Ewert said.

Mathewson is sure that Al-Qaeda will retaliate in an attempt to “weaken our hearts and scare us.”

“There was nothing scarier than 9/11,” he said.

Regardless of the likelihood of an attack, De Monico advises that the government strengthen Homeland Security.

“There will always be terrorists, so long as there are bombs and hard feelings,” De Monico said. “America must continue to be vigilant.”