Young Americans Reflect on Death of 'Ultimate Bad Guy'
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Osama bin Laden's death is one of those moments in history that will always be remembered, but it has a different meaning for young Americans who have grown up with bin Laden as the ultimate bad guy.
They watched, texted and tweeted like the rest of the world.
"I heard it chatting with a friend on Facebook," said University of Rochester student Mara Chinelli.
"I went onto Facebook and like everybody's status had changed to something to do with 'we got him,' " said U of R student Alex Ringo.
They may be part of the social media generation, but today's college students also grew up in a world of global terrorism led by Osama bin Laden.
"He was definitely the face that we were seeing in the news constantly," said Ringo. "He really was associated with kind of the word evil."
"What has kind of shaped my coming of age, beyond 9/11, is the series of historical events that have followed 9/11 in terms of heightened national security, the invasion of Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq and how long these wars have actually been going on," said Chinelli.
Their teenage years featured color coded terror alert levels, taking off their shoes at the airport, making valentines to send to the troops, and watching military funerals on the news. It all started with 9/11.
"This is their formative memory, like the Kennedy assassination was for me," said U of R anthropology professor Thomas Gibson.
Gibson created a course called Islam and Global Politics. He says just as the course changed from year to year, so too did his students.
"I don't know that they had the same sense that at any moment there could be another massive al-Qaida type attack," said Gibson. "I don't know that that's the part of it that's affecting the current group of students. What's affecting them is the economy that they face upon graduation."
Osama bin Laden's death doesn't drastically change the world today's college students live in.
"It's very important to understand this is not the end of modern terrorism," said Ringo. "It's a blow against it."
But with the boogeyman of their youth slayed, they can now think about a different future.
"The other outcome could be if we reflect upon more of our position in the world at this point," said Chinelli.
It's an even different conversation for kids. Anyone younger than nine years old was born after the 9/11 attacks and the world that came out of them. Osama bin Laden will be a name they learn about in their history courses.