No, this is not “World’s” events. If you’re looking for an article about the Cheerleading Worlds, you’ll have to look elsewhere. I was not there. I spent most of the weekend doing yard work. But I spent the very last two hours or the weekend sharing the news with our country and the world as the President announced that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.
Before I go any farther, here is the disclaimer. This is a blog about cheerleading. I have no plans of turning this into a political site. However, sometimes something happens that is too big to be ignored. It transcends ordinary boundaries and spills into every aspect of life. For instance, last night during the NY Mets game, when word got out about Bin Laden, the crowd spontaneously burst into chants of “USA, USA, USA.” Sports properly took a back seat, and a stadium of competing fans became united. So in this article, I mostly want to reflect on the current news. I have a few tie-ins to cheerleading stuff, but please forgive me that this is a little less grounded in cheering.
My parents say they will always remember where they were when they heard that President Kennedy was assassinated. My generations Kennedy moment was September 11. I was in an accounting class. I was running an all star program and had decided I needed some formal accounting training (which wound up being very beneficial). Anyway, I was on campus for 4 hours because I had 2 classes and some down time between them. My older brother was taking the same classes with me. We talked about what had happened. We observed everyone walking around. There was a lot of disbelief. There was a lot of anger. In our second class that day, our professor gave us an opportunity to spend a few minutes at the start of class talking about what had happened. Some fool raised his hand and said he thought we (The USA) “had it coming.” If not for our level-headed professor the rest of the class might have run that guy right off the campus. It was around that time that I realized I had to figure out what to do with all star practices that night.
The gym was situated about 5 miles from a major Delta hub airport. Planes were landing and taking off literally non-stop to the point that you didn’t even hear or notice them. Driving to the gym that day after class, the silence was deafening. All air traffic had been grounded. I was used to seeing the long lines of jet wash chris crossing the sky. On this day, the skies were perfectly blue and eerily still.
When I got to the gym, there were dozens of messages to be returned. It became clear that a lot of people were choosing to spend that evening together as families. That was actually great, as I intended to do the same thing. I made practice optional for kids that wanted to come. It turns out that everyone called and said they would miss practice. I got to close up early. I spent that night like most people I knew, watching the news with my family.
While I was glued to the TV, it occurred to me that the emotion that I was feeling most, and that I think moved people to cling to their families, was fear. I was used to feeling safe. I mean, I locked my front door when I left the house. It wasn’t like things in the 50’s and 60’s. But I still basically felt like if a person was reasonably careful, they were unlikely to be a random victim of something horrible. Bin Laden changed that for me, and I think for a lot of us. He took the planes out of the sky and made the airspace around my gym a ghost town. He touched me with fear from all the way across the oceans in the Middle East, and I was angry that he had that power over me and the kids that I coached and their families. And the next day when I watched the President promise us justice, I was thankful that the person who caused my fear and caused so much pain to others would be punished.
And then, life went on. I got on a plane to coach my teams in Florida. People were still nervous. You noticed more security and more guns. They started checking our bags at the gates of the Magic Kingdom. People were a little nicer to strangers. I got on another plane a few weeks later to judge a competition. Life was moving on. People were getting less patient with long security lines. People were getting angry with the TSA and with each other. The great unity we all felt in the wake of 9/11 was dissipating.
Almost 10 years later, yesterday, we have come full circle. I now have another moment I will always remember. I was watching Donald Trump’s show, Celebrity Apprentice. It’s ironic since Trump and President Obama have been feuding in the media, that Trumps show got “trumped” by Obama’s announcement about Bin Laden. I actually thought it might have been a prank in poor taste. But when the news actually came on, it made me incredibly reflective about what had just happened.
I did not feel personally safer. The fear that I felt in 2001 had long since faded away. So had most of the anger. The country has muddled through a difficult decade since then. Our economy has faltered. Our progress in the wars has been slow. Our reputation as a country that gets things done has been questioned. So news that WE, the USA, finally fulfilled a 10-year-old promise was strangely powerful to me. I do not know what this will do for our country. I hope it will give us back some of the confidence, pride and unity that was lost. I do not feel like celebrating death, but I do believe in celebrating justice fulfilled.
Thanks for indulging me on this more personal blog. I will get a cheer article out soon.