Some experts at Ohio State say that for the college-aged generation, the death of Osama bin Laden might become a “where you were moment.”
Sociology lecturer Joshua Dubrow said a “where were you moment” is one when people know exactly what they were doing and where they were when something happened. For previous generations, President John F. Kennedy’s assassination is an example.
“Everyone loved (Kennedy), I would say more than the world hated bin Laden,” said Michael Chandler, an OSU employee born in 1959. “I will always remember what I was doing when JFK was shot, but not for when bin Laden was assassinated.”
The generational divide has clearly shown its face through differing reactions, Dubrow said. Bin Laden’s death is affecting two generations. One, coined Generation X, was born in the 1970s, and the other generation, including most OSU students, was born in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Dubrow said he thinks members of the college generation will know exactly where they were when they heard about bin Laden’s death. He said he does not think it will be the same for Generation X, because the event did not affect them the way it did the college generation.
“(Bin Laden’s) death, though it is not similar at all to JFK’s assassination, may be one of those moments that members of that specific generation remember where they were when the news was announced and exactly what they were doing,” he said.
Ann Elizabeth Kean, a third-year in psychology, said she will remember bin Laden’s death for years.
“It wasn’t as traumatic as 9/11, but it was just as memorable,” Kean said. “We’ve been dealing with him for years now.”
Dubrow teaches courses about American society in OSU’s sociology department and received his doctorate in sociology.
“The real historical connection between 9/11 and the death of Osama bin Laden is that they are both memorable events that will go down in history,” Dubrow said. “But really they cannot be compared because they are just completely two events with different reactions and elements about them.”
Stefanie Edwards, OSU employee and at 37 years of age is a member of Generation X, said she doesn’t think the event will play as big a historical impact as other past American events.
“I don’t think I will necessarily remember it like I remember the Challenger crashing or 9/11,” Edwards said. “I think it is a memorable event and certainly a U.S. victory, but I’m not sure I will remember the trauma like I remember those.”
Dubrow said he thinks most members of Generation X will remember the event similarly to Edwards.
“There are theories as to why bin Laden’s death is affecting the college generation,” Dubrow said. “One is that the celebrating was because 9/11 was so traumatic for children plus the way the War on Terror was talked about and Osama bin Laden was talked about as a person.”
Dubrow said the way bin Laden was depicted to the college generation throughout childhood and growing up had much to do with the unparalleled way the generation reacted in celebration.
“I don’t think there has ever been a time in American history when the U.S. has assassinated someone and the country has welcomed it with such overwhelming happiness,” he said.
Dubrow said the closest thing he could think of would be the death of Hitler and the end of World War II. Even then, he said, Hitler chose to commit suicide and the U.S. did not celebrate to the extent of the assassination of bin Laden.
Gina Daniele, a third-year in international studies, said she thinks bin Laden’s death was not as major as Hitler falling during World War II.
“Yes, bin Laden was the bad guy of our generation, but he didn’t hold the same powerful influence as Hitler did,” Daniele said. “Osama was more of a figurehead, when Hitler had an entire nation behind him. But, bin Laden was the organizer of horrible attacks all over the world that, in hindsight, caused more emotional damage to families than actual loss of human life.”