Unless you've been trapped in a cave in the wilds of Tora Bora for the last 24 hours, you've probably heard the monumental news that Osama bin Laden finally met his end at the hands of US Navy SEALS. While his death doesn't signify the end of the war on terror by any means, bin Laden represented the face of terrorism for so many people for so long. And for those who lost a loved one on 9/11, bin Laden's death brings some closure.
Much like the 9/11 tragedy itself, most people will remember where they were when they first heard the news of bin Laden's demise. Coming so late on a Sunday evening, we were nearly asleep when my friend Dave called. Having been raised in a household where calls after 10:00 pm on a "school night" didn't usually mean good news, so I was a bit anxious when I answered the phone.
He asked if we were watching television, and my first thought was that there had been some type of tragedy, or perhaps even a scandal related to the controversy around President Obama's birth certificate. When he explained that the president was expected to make a major announcement on television any moment, it seemed like we needed to watch, to be a part of whatever history was about to unfold in front of us.
Although the wait for the presidentnearly an hour after first turning on the televisionseemed interminable and slightly frustrating, it was utterly surreal to hear the news of bin Laden's death from Wolf Blitzer and John King. While, not surprisingly, the newscasters were somewhat prone to hyperbole and factual errors given their being called into work unexpectedly on a Sunday night, it didn't lessen the drama as President Obama strode down the East Room hallway to address the world. He began:
"Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.As he outlined the scenario under which bin Laden's whereabouts were determined, then confirmed, and when the president gave the order to capture the terrorist leader, I marveled at the strength of our intelligence community, which was able to keep these developments secret for so long. And more than that, I was grateful for the bravery of those involved in the operation, for being able to kill bin Laden without incurring any American casualties, and I was grateful to all of those who have given their timeand in some cases, their livesdefending the US.
"It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memoryhijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.
"And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. The empty seat at the dinner table. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace. Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts."
President Obama concluded his speech by saying, "The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place. Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
When Saddam Hussein was captured and ultimately executed, I didn't feel much of anything, mainly because his horrendous crimes were perpetuated on the Iraqis and other people in the Middle East. But having lost friends on 9/11, while this time of celebration is slightly tinged with sorrow, I feel as if in some small way, their deaths have been avenged.
This moment was a long time coming, and while it was President Obama who gave the final order, those in President G.W. Bush's administration did doggedly try for years to capture bin Laden. All should be proud of this accomplishment.
Never forget, we are the land of the free because of the brave.