I’ve continued to reflect on the various implications and meanings of the locating and killing of Osama bin Laden. Here’s a preview of my column for Patheos, which will appear in full tomorrow morning:

The scene on Sunday night, from the pictures I saw and the live, on the ground report I gleaned from Twitter, brought to mind one other memory–this one more closely related to the killing of Osama bin Laden, a kind of book end to it. I was, myself, a college student in September 2001. For me, the terrorist attack was the singular moment that shattered the black and white world I had been living in. I know this wasn’t the case for all college students, but for me, there was no going back.

And yet, on the evening of September 11, 2001, after a long day of watching the planes hit the towers over and over again, my friends and I piled into my car with only a vague sense of where we were going. We needed a change of scenery and a bit of distraction. We drove into Beverly, Massachusetts, a town a few miles away from Gordon College, looking for a bowling alley we had never been to. As we entered the downtown area, the moment of silence that President Bush had called for, which, unconsciously, we had not observed, had just come to an end.

The streets of Beverly, on that warm September night, were filled with young people who, after being silent for a minute, erupted into cheers and shouts. The mood was hard to describe; we really couldn’t tell if they were angry or joyous, relieved that the most terrible day most of us had lived through was coming to an end or, most likely, so unsure as to how to feel that some primeval urge to make noise took over. But, in my mind, that evening in Beverly is typified by one thing–a sign some guys had made out of a large piece of plywood and fluorescent orange spray paint.

The sign read, “Packastan or Bust!!!” Ignore, for a moment, the spelling error, and consider that these young guys who supported the sign with one hand and clutched beer cans in the other were either psychic–they knew we’d find bin Laden in Pakistan nearly ten years later–or, more likely, completely ignorant. It is impossible to forget now that the post-9/11 strategy to find those responsible for the attacks led us into Afghanistan, not Pakistan, or even Packastan, for that matter. But in that moment none of this mattered. It was black and white, someone had to pay and, in a black and white world, action is dominant over truth.

Be sure to head over to the Patheos Evangelical Portal to read the rest tomorrow.

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Jonathan D. Fitzgerald

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