Osama bin Laden is Dead

On September 11, 2001, I was in Columbus, OH. I had moved there a week before to start graduate school. I knew no one yet and was planning to spend that weekend in Virginia with friends. I was getting a late start that morning and had sat down to check my email when a friend IMd me to tell me the news. I didn’t go to Virginia. I stayed and watched as history and horror unfolded as one. I watched by myself, in a strange city, as alone as I had ever felt in my life.

The next morning I woke up with the horror still fresh and the first words to cross my mind were “Osama bin Laden”. September 12, 2001 was my 28th birthday. In the midst of all the other fear and confusion, I was pettily angry that Osama bin Laden had ruined my birthday weekend. Though I left that day for Virginia and spent the days with my friends, it was different. The football game we had planned to go to was cancelled. Another friend who was supposed to join us was trapped in New Jersey, staring across the river at the smoking wound in Manhattan. And America has lost her innocence.

Osama bin Laden is now dead. I will not mourn him.

Last night, as the rumors of his death preceded the President’s confirmation of the facts, I was struck by an overwhelming wave of grief for two men I lost to the war on terrorism: a CIA agent killed in a live-fire training incident in Afghanistan in 2003 and a DEA agent killed in a raid in Afghanistan in 2009. This does not bring them back. Nothing brings them back.

I will never forget the steely look on Presidents Obama’s face as he told the nation about administering the order to attack the compound where bin Laden was suspected of hiding. This was the face of a man who had knowingly ordered an execution. He looked changed to me in the moment. Changed, certainly, from the man I had watched laughing at the White House Correspondents Association dinner the night before. He had laughed only hours before authorizing the raid, fully knowing that it was imminent, or at least likely. He laughed before making history. He laughed before the consequences became clear.

The consequences are sill unclear.

Osama bin Laden is dead and so are countless others who died in the wake of his murderous obsession. To all the families that mourn, the families of the military, the intelligence community, the diplomatic corps, and the thousands of innocents who died in the 9/11 attacks, the families of everyone who has died in the conflicts overseas, foreign and American, those families all mourn. Nothing will change that. But maybe this will mark the turning point. Maybe this will slow the trajectory of the war on terrorism. Maybe now the barefoot boy in jammies beside me will never have to fear terrorism. Maybe this will be the beginning of the end.

Thank you to all who serve for bringing about this day.

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9 comments for “Osama bin Laden is Dead

  1. May 2, 2011 at 9:06 am

    Well said…as always.

  2. Amy
    May 2, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Thank you for putting this into words. Well said

  3. May 2, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Wonderfully put. Great, great post.

  4. May 2, 2011 at 10:22 am

    OMG–sept 13th, 2011 was my 29th birthday. sorry, had to share. Great post.

  5. May 2, 2011 at 10:37 am

    This was really, really well put. I expect nothing less from you, though.

  6. Laura
    May 2, 2011 at 11:53 am


  7. May 2, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    I will never forget where I was in 2001. I will never forget where I was last night. The now-seemingly-petty issues I was focused on; what I was doing while the President spoke; and how I got all my news from Twitter, FaceBook and Boston.com. This morning, I watched the President’s speech via Hulu.

    I, too, will not mourn Osama Bin Laden. My mind was on my dear friend, Katie, who was killed in the towers…less than a year after marrying her love; Jackie, who was the older sister of a childhood crush. And countless others. These people are gone, and his death won’t bring them back. But I thank any and all who had a part in bringing him down. I can’t thank you enough.

    Rebekah, you always so poignantly write what many of us think, and I thank you for that as well.

  8. May 2, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    “Maybe now the barefoot boy in jammies beside me will never have to fear terrorism.” hit me like a ton of bricks. Thank you for a great piece.

  9. May 2, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    I just love you and love your voice. This says everything I would say if I knew how.

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