a date that will live in infamy

Posted on May 9, 2011


May 1st, 2011

The usual Sunday night dread: where did the weekend go? I had a psych test the next day, one that I needed to do well on in order to ensure an A in the class.

I decide to take a little snack/Facebook/Twitter break, a reward for finally reading Chapter 8:Aggression. I had the slide on aggression memorized. Instrumental aggression-harm is inflicted as a way to achieve a desired end while hostile aggression is when the means and end are the same, meaning violence for the sake of violence. The example given in class was terrorism.

Scanning my news feed, I commented on a video my friend posted of pandas hugging. I was fighting the urge to falla sleep.

2 more minutes of my study break left. Scrolling back up on my home page, another friend’s status caught my eye.

Posted at 10:29PM: “Obama making a speech at 10:30 on a Sunday night? *worried*”

This immediately sparked my interest. My inner journalism major pushed me out of bed and I turned the TV to MSNBC.

An anchor I was unfamiliar with was pretty much reiterating the status: Obama was making an unexpected speech.  I left the TV on low and continued reviewing my slides until the anchor caught my attention once again. He said the President would be speaking about a national security issue in Pakistan. I immediately froze. My grandparents live there, not to mention much of my extended family. I texted my sister to tell her to turn the TV on, and I was then glued to the screen. I was afraid of what they would say, and imagined the worse: some sort of invasion. Would my grandparents be okay?

I know a side of Pakistan that not many people have experienced. Most people know of the country because of the news, and all of the terrorism/extremism that is often mentioned in connotation with it. I’ve been there a few times, once to visit my grandparents, once to shop for my sister’s wedding dress, and once for a wedding. When most people think of Pakistan, they think of what they have heard on the news–they think of a dangerous, foreign, scary place.

When I think of it, I picture the small city my grandparents live in, far away from any of the places mentioned on the news. I think of my grandfather walking by the garden, the fresh pomegranate tea always available, my mom’s favorite cousin since childhood taking me shopping for dessert, and sitting in the sun while braiding my grandmother’s long brown hair.

I called my mom as the anchor continued to press the grandeur of the announcement. She was asleep and told me to call her back if something big was announced.

I then turned to Twitter. This was the first big news event I followed on Twitter. To me, the experience of Tweeting/reading tweets about the event was similar to the idea behind why people watch TV news: it was a shared experience. I felt somewhat comforted in knowing that all around me, people were hearing and feeling things similar to what I felt. It was also interesting to later see how people reacted to the news; a huge spectrum of emotion from saddness in remembrance of 9/11 to excitment and celebration to the end of an era.  

With my Twitter and Facebook opened in separate windows, I could see that anxiety was growing. David Gregory had taken over the broadcast on MSNBC, which just added to my fear: they were calling the big guns in.

As much of America waited for Obama to tell us all what was going on already, David Gregory actually started to announce something. He began to say “We now know…” to which his voice trailed off, and he said he was asked to hold it.

I was glued to the TV at this point, hanging on David Gregory’s every word. He said NBC was expecting the President to make an announcement about a serious CIA operation overseas. But no specifics.

Brian Williams was on my screen at this point, and it was 11:10. Wow, I thought, if Brian Williams is on this late on a Sunday night…something big was happening. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of Brian telling viewers to wait just 5 more minutes for the Presiden’t remarks, Obama appeared.

“Tonight, I can report to the American  people and the world that the United States had conducted an operation that killed Osama Bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda” said Mr. Obama.

Just over 56 million people watched President Obama speak on Sunday night, according to Nielsen data.

IMMEDIATELY Twitter exploded. I searched #osama and saw that people had heard what I had, and felt what I had-could it be?

Facebook, a little slower to respond, eventually echoed the same thoughts.

I thought of how I learned about the terrorist attacks on 9/11. I was in 5th grade, and my teacher told us that there had been an attack in New York City. Many kids in the class began crying, including myself. I thought of my sister, who was going to school in the city, and I worried for her. I also remember vividly speaking to my classmates at recess about why someone would do such a thing-hurt people who had done nothing wrong? None of us could come up with an answer.

Brian Williams spoke of people like me, who have grown up in a post 9/11 world. It made the whole thing even harder to believe. It also made the past decade since the attacks seem like an eternity.

The whole 24 hours after the announcement reminded me of something we spoke of in JRN 301. September 11th was a day that belonged to TVs-people were tuned in, watching the horrific images, wanting to stay updated on what was going on. The morning after, however, belonged to newspapers as people searched for context: what is al-Qaeda, what is being done to protect us, was there any warning, how will we respond, what happened in Pennsylvania, etc.

I think something similar happened when the President announced Osama has been killed. All eyes were turned into Obama and then the following television coverage for the hours after the announcement, but the next morning it was all about what was being said in Newspapers. Questions about his death, burial, conspiracy theories, the SEALS, etc were all being addressed, in-depth, by newspapers.

 The past few days have truly been an amazing time to be a journalism major. My faith in the importance of smart, independent, accurate journalism–though it never faltered–has been renewed and revitalized.

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