All the while, those who suffer at the hands of terrorists were often left by the wayside. We were at the mercy of bin Laden and his collaborators — traumatized when they released videos or statements, unsure when their next attack would happen, and only called upon for our opinions in response to theirs. I started to dread any “unknown caller” popping up on my caller ID; inevitably it was a journalist seeking my reaction to something this madman had said, sometimes interrupting what had been a peaceful day.
In part, that frustration led me to co-found the Global Survivors Network, a group of victims of terrorist attacks from around the world. In meetings over the past two years, we’ve shared our aggravations, our hopes and our desire to prevent future attacks. We decided that we should merit the same attention as bin Laden and other terrorists, and that we should use the same tools they use. For every statement they make, we should make a counter-statement. For every video they release, we should release our own. I once even proposed, jokingly, that we should hide one of our members (Ashraf Al Khaled, an inspirational Jordanian who lost 27 friends and family members in 2005 when his wedding was bombed by attackers inspired by bin Laden) in a cave and bring him out every few months. After all, that approach seemed to have worked well for the terrorists!
In a perverse irony, I was taking my lead from bin Laden, mirroring his tactics and movements to achieve opposite goals. My idea to create a documentary film can be directly attributed to bin Laden’s success with his own videos and the desire it inspired in me to counter them. It paid off: “Killing in the Name” was nominated for an Academy Award this year, and Global Survivors Network videos have been accepted into the Cannes Film Festival.
All the while, I have never really stopped to study the man. I don’t think I can. In my mind, Osama bin Laden is a murderer, plain and simple, and I am simply not interested in learning any more or defining him in any other way.
His death has elicited a range of emotions for me: numbness, relief and mostly sadness that I will still wake up each day without being able to hug Mom. In that sense, bin Laden’s demise does not change my life. My mother is still gone. I will never complete that phone call I tried so hard to make on that gorgeous September day. And I remain inspired to thwart a senseless but potent ideology that continues to draw sustenance from his mystique — one that, sadly, will far outlive bin Laden himself.
Carie Lemack is a co-founder of the Global Survivors Network and the executive producer of “Killing in the Name.”
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