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A day of mourning

Erik Helgesen | Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Following the news about the death of Osama bin Laden, I found myself deeply unsettled by the reactions I observed both in the American public at large, and particularly within the Notre Dame community. After hearing the shouts and chants of the crowd on God Quad from my room on Sunday night, I ventured outside to get a closer look and was greeted with a raucous and joyous celebration not unlike the celebrations we witness after a big football win. It bears considering, however, whether this is the appropriate reaction to the undeniably momentous news of bin Laden’s death.

I do not wish to argue about whether his death is an expression of justice, nor do I seek to demean in any way the accomplishment of this operation. However, this is not a victory in a sporting event, despite the nature of the celebrations on campus. First and foremost, this is the death of a human being, something that ought to be mourned, not celebrated. On this occasion, I mourn that we live in a world where it is necessary to end the life of a human being in order to protect the lives of others, and I mourn that we must continue this most recent cycle of violence that began nearly 10 years ago on September 11, 2001.

To this end, I ask not that everyone agree with me, nor that such celebrations cease. I ask only this: before you use bin Laden’s death as a reason to go out and party this week, or post your next Facebook status about the glorious U.S. victory over terror, ask yourself why you are celebrating. The death of one man does not bring back the victims of terrorist attacks, nor does it signal an end to the threat of terrorism. Perhaps then, this occasion ought to serve not as a celebration of an American triumph, but as a solemn remembrance of lives lost as we struggle even now to move on from the tragic events of the last decade.

Erik Helgesen


St. Edward’s Hall

May 2