I remember my best friend in high school texted me on the morning of September 11th, 2001 that the news had said a plane just hit the World Trade Center. During the break in between classes, I ran into the Model UN classroom knowing that the TV would be on to see live footage of the World Trade Center — a building I had visited only two summers before — in flames. That image would be seared into our national memory as the defining act of terrorism.
This was during the beginning of my sophomore year in high school. I had finished a year of Model UN in the pre-9/11 world, and that world just changed forever. For the rest of high school and college — all of my formal schooling up to college graduation in 2008 — Osama bin Laden and terrorism was one of the headliners in international affairs and consequently one of the central issues during my entire Model UN career. In high school, I specialized in security issues and won my first gavel in an Ad Hoc Committee on Terrorism. In college, I even took classes on counter-terrorism and military science to do better in committee. The issue of terrorism no doubt shaped the way I was taught about the world that I lived in.
The death of Osama bin Laden marks the end of a decade and hopefully the end of an era. I use “hopefully” not just because the world would be much safer without terrorism and not just because it is too early to determine when the war against terrorism will end, but also because in my opinion, there are many other critical issues like poverty, global health, and climate change that the world needs its talented youth to turn its attention toward. These are issues that I regrettably explored only during the tail end of my Model UN career as I had focused on addressing terrorism and security. There is a school of thought that suggests solving these non-security issues as an effective way of countering the roots of terrorism — I hope that we can achieve both in the post-Osama bin Laden world.
Last but not least, I wanted to take a moment to thank all the troops. Some of them were my friends and leaders in Model UN and beyond: my high school Model UN mentor, Pablo, went on to compete for the West Point Model UN team and served a tour of duty in Iraq; our UCLA MUN faculty advisor, Casey Miner, served in Operation Iraqi Freedom; two of my college roommates and best friends joined the military after graduation — Chris is now in the Air Force and John returned safely from Afghanistan this morning; and my former boss at AT&T, Mark, was recently redeployed to Iraq. To all the troops: thank you.
The death of Osama bin Laden certainly means more than just its impact on one person’s Model UN experience, but then again, this is a Model UN blog and his acts of terrorism did shape my worldview as a Model UN participant. I’m curious — what does this historic event mean to you? Let us know in the comments.