The morning of September 11th 2001 started like any other morning. I had arrived to work at 8:30, called my wife to wish her a good day, and within a few minutes was notified by a fellow worker that the World Trade Center was on fire. That morning I, along with an entire nation, watched in horror over the next several hours as two of the tallest buildings in the world were reduced to rubble and three thousand innocent people had been the victims of the most heinous act of terrorism committed against this nation in its long history. Not even the burning of the White House by the British in 1814 or the attack on Pearl Harbor could compare.
We would soon discover the man responsible for planning the attack was Osama bin Laden, leader of al-Qaeda, a terrorist organization that had carried out the U.S. embassy bombings and the attack on the U.S.S. Cole. 19 hijackers had been specially trained to deliberately fly two planes into the twin towers and one into the Pentagon. Only a selfless act of heroism by a number of passengers on Flight 93 prevented another target – possibly the Capital building – from being destroyed.
In our despair and grief, we came together as one nation. Suddenly there were no Republicans or Democrats, no conservatives or liberals, just Americans. For the first time since World War II, the country was unified. What terrorists had meant for evil, millions of us turned into hope and recovery. And even though the moment of unity soon passed into the abyss of political divisiveness, all of us who were touched by the violence that day, either directly or indirectly, will never forget where we were, what we were doing, and the tremendous example of those firemen, police and Port Authority workers who sacrificed everything they had to save total strangers.
On the evening of May 1st 2011, I was watching an episode of CSI-Miami when, at approximately 10:30, CBS broke in with a special alert that President Obama was going to address the nation. What was so important that it required waking up an entire nation? Was it about Libya? Was Gaddafi finally stepping down, or maybe assassinated in a NATO raid?
We didn’t have long to wait. Within minutes of the initial alert, the news finally broke: bin Laden was dead, killed in a raid on his compound within an affluent Pakistani suburban neighborhood. When the President finally addressed the nation from the East Room of the White House, tears of joy were streaming down my cheeks. A grateful people took to the streets to celebrate as the news spread like wildfire throughout the land.
It has been nine years, seven months and 21 days since that tragic day, and now the man who murdered so many innocent people and stained an entire religion has met his just deserts. Dare I say, it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving individual? Yes, I dare!
Please spare me the sermons about how wrong it is to cheer or celebrate the death of another human being. This was different. Osama bin Laden was a human being the same way Hitler was a human being. Both were unspeakably evil and both committed despicable acts of violence upon their victims. While Hitler had more blood on his hands than bin Laden, the difference wasn’t worth parsing, as far as I’m concerned. Ironically both died on the exact same day – May 1st – 66 years apart. Poetic justice, don’t you think?
No, there is no compassion in my heart for a monster; rather my thoughts and prayers go out to those families and friends who lost loved ones on that fateful day. My hope is that now – finally, after all these years – they can find some measure of peace and begin to move on with the rest of their lives. Nothing can ever make them completely whole, but now that the man who murdered their loved ones has himself been killed, they can rest a bit easier.
And I also don’t want to hear any political spin on this military action, at least not for some time. Already pundits on both side of the political aisle are starting their nauseating dive into the partisan pit. On the Left, Obama is the best president since Ike; on the Right, all he did was continue the Bush Doctrine. Knock it off. There will be plenty of time to go back to business as usual. The debt ceiling and budget battles aren’t going anywhere and, no doubt, will return to the fore soon enough. For now, let’s enjoy the moment. Like those days immediately after 9/11, let’s pretend we’re all one voice and forget our differences.
Take a good look at the crowds dancing for joy in the streets around midtown Manhattan, the World Trade Center and outside the White House. They’ve got the right idea. Those aren’t Republicans or Democrats you see; they’re just good old-fashioned Americans, waving flags and chanting USA, USA!
Who knows what tomorrow will bring; for that matter who cares. Bin Laden is dead. We’ve waited and prayed for this day for almost a decade. Now that it’s here, let’s not ruin it by living down to our worst proclivities. What a tragedy it would be if the last victory that bastard had was to watch us tear each other apart over how he arrived at his final resting place, which I sincerely hope is nice and hot.