The news never stops, does it? On Friday morning, many people got up early to watch a royal wedding. On Sunday night, people stayed up late to hear the announcement of the killing of Osama bin Laden.
I almost missed the bin Laden news. Sunday was an early-to-bed night. But around 10:30 I woke up and could not get back to sleep because I was thinking about a project. Went downstairs to make notes, and turned on the computer. Checked email, checked Facebook -- and there were bin Laden comments. On went the TV. Over to Twitter I went. Posted on Twitter, with messages linked to Facebook; read the back-and-forths on both sites, and channel-flipped as I did. (This was the first night I had done heavy channel-flipping since Time Warner changed the local stations' lineup, and I found myself having to reflip because I was mentally programmed to hit the old channel numbers, not the new ones.)
I stayed with the coverage until sometime after the president spoke. I tried to sort out a lot of conflicting emotions. I have one son in Army training, another living in New York City. My New York son called to reassure me that he and his girlfriend were being safe and careful.
Now, the morning after, I keep thinking about how different this all was from 9/11 in terms of information distribution. In 2001, Twitter and Facebook were not things I used. For that matter, I didn't have a blog yet. I wrote several versions of a story for the Beacon Journal (and, I think, whatever we had as an online entity then), updating as the day went along -- but they were complete columns, not the sort of notebook-emptying, impressionistic, often brief things we do now.
But the different ways of conveying information did not change the swirl of confusion and uncertainty on each day. Is it great that bin Laden is dead? Well, in terms of getting a merciless lunatic out of the way, sure. But what if his followers decide to make a point about the war going on without him? We can't be sure. That was the big lesson of 9/11, more even than from terror attacks before it. We can't be sure. No mission accomplished here. Justice only partly done. We may talk about all this on different platforms. But in large measure we are still talking about the same things as we were a decade ago.